East Lansing, MI
The Michigan State Spartans opened what could be a very promising 2012-2013 season tonight with a 85 to 57 thrashing of NAIA power Northwood, from Florida. There is nothing exciting about playing a division AA, two or three team and an NAIA foe is worse. Far worse. The redeeming quality is when they are coached by a college basketball ICON in Rollie Massimino.
Massimino was full of praise for Tom Izzo’s Spartans after the game. He said, “It was a wonderful experience for us. I think Michigan State is going to be a very very good team. I thought we played very very well the first half. They just pounded the ball down our throats. They are big and strong.”
Tom Izzo didn’t share the same kind words for his team. They were by far the superior team, but at times they looked sluggish and just simply played down to the level of competition. Izzo said, “We didn’t do our job,” quoting what Derrick Nix said to him after the game. “I think it happens when you play two groups like we did.”
It has been 27 years since Massimino coached what many consider the perfect game to lead the Villanova Wildcats over the famed Patrick Ewing lead Georgetown Hoyas. None of the current Spartans were alive.
Branden Dawson was the star tonight. He had 16 points to lead the Spartans and seven boards to go with it. The last we saw him he went down and didn’t return with a major knee injury. Well in breaking news that the Big Ten won’t like, He’s Back!
Dawson said of being back after the game that, “It feels so good. After sitting out six moths and now I got a coming out. When I first game here (to MSU) I was lazy, selfish. I never had anyone push me. I never pushed me. I took this game for granted, now I have an all-new appreciation for basketball. It’s good to be back.”
Derrick Nix the senior captain was also stellar. He added 13 points and eight rebounds. I asked the captain about his team and he said of their performance, “We wasn’t as sharp as we looked in practice. We bigs didn’t run the lane like we do in practice. Don’t be fooled, it was the first game. We’ll pick it up Friday.’
Five Spartans scored in double digits in tonight’s contest for Izzo. Travis Trice added 12, Alex Gauna dropped ten and freshman star Gary Harris added 14 as well as two steals and two assists. He played like the star he is. Harris played fluid with and without the ball and athletic on offense and defense.
I asked Harris about his first game. The youngster said, “It was good. It was good for me. It felt right.”
I said the Spartans biggest challenge this year will be simple. With all the talent and depth and only one basketball and 200 minutes to play, how will Izzo spread the wealth and keep his team happy? That is the biggest question that will play out over the season.
The Spartans have one more exhibition game on Friday here at the Breslin at 8:30 PM before they had to Germany to play Connecticut on November 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM to kick of the regular season. The Spartans are currently ranked #14 in the nation.