As the #21 Spartans entered todays tilt with TSU they were beginning the first of what will be nine alphabet soup games this year. Those are teams of no significance that the Spartans can use a mere scrimmage to tune up for the B1G season. The only two games left of significance prior to the Big Ten campaign is November 28 at Miami of Florida and here at the Breslin against Texas on December 22.
After today’s contest the Spartans have eight of their next nine games those alphabet soup opponents. From the opening tilt the Spartans were in control and it was never in doubt against TSU and you can expect against the upcoming others.
The biggest suspense in the game was why starter Derrick Nix didn’t start and stayed out the first 9:30 of the first half. Izzo claimed it was because he wanted to get a long look at his roster as he hopes the players sort out who plays and who doesn’t in the real games coming. Nix later in the locker room confirmed what Izzo said.
Izzo said of the game that, “Not a very great performance. I have to many guys jacking shots right now.” He continued, “I didn’t think we played with the same energy level and that is disappointing.”
Mike Davis, yes that Mike Davis, the former coach at Indiana returned to the Breslin and admitted, “It was great because it was the first time we played and if we lost, it was no problem,” and I am sure it was. He knew coming in with only nine players (MSU played 12) that he was not only behind in talent, but bodies also. The Spartans had 10 players that played double digit minutes and that was WITHOUT PG Travis Trice who watched in street clothes from the bench. Trice is recovering from a major concussion.
Davis is well aware of Izzo’s teams and said of this current crop of Spartans after the game that, “I thought they played together as a basketball team,” but in the case of his team, “We just wanted to get better.”
Derrick Nix despite missing the first 9:30 picked up 11 boards and six points. He said of his performance in the locker room after the game to me, “I felt I could have brought a lot more energy. I need to work on my defense and not just standing like a tree.”
Gary Harris continues to show why he was recruited by anyone and very well may be a one and done player. He poured in 19 points and supplemented that with two rebounds and two steals. He not only plays like a seasoned pro, but he sounds like one also.
In the locker room after the game he told me, “I just think I am adjusting to the college game really well thanks to the upper classmen. It really is my teammates.” O.K., but they aren’t the ones who taught him to step on the floor at this level and still make it look like high school. He is a special player.
Izzo has had to try very hard to contain his excitement about Harris. He said, “Gary has been as solid as anybody. He’s making free throws, but if I had to pick a negative about him it would be his rebounding. I think he could be a phenomenal rebounder and he isn’t doing that very well. He is running the court, hitting open shots and always ready to shoot. He gets ten shots but I think he let every one come to him.”
The reigning Mr. Basketball for the state of Michigan Matt Costello finally got his first action of the season. He had his entrance on the big stage delayed with a bruised tailbone and finally played 11 minutes. He scored four points, had three rebounds and added two blocks. It was a great first game for the true freshman.
He told me that being back and his play was, “O.K.“ He added, “It was very good to be back. It was fun. I really enjoyed myself. I didn’t play as well as I had hoped. I need to get better at my defensive rebound; I got in there, but then let them push me around. I need to be more physical.”
So what does he think of this year’s version of the Izzo cagers? Davis said, “I thought they really fought hard. I think they’re really, really, really physical. It may be the big guys that do a great job of getting down on ball screens.”
The next alphabet soup victim the Spartans face is Boise State. They play here at the Breslin Center on Tuesday at 8 P.M. That contest will air on the Big Ten Network.