Michigan State came into Lincoln, Nebraska and accomplished their goal: survive and advance. This was a prototypical trap game and they made it through. The Spartans 73-64 win improved their record to 22-4 (11-2) and that firmly turns the Spartans attention to a Tuesday night battle at the Breslin Center with the #1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
Izzo was almost relived after the game. After his Spartans put away the upstart Huskers, his mind was already on Indiana. “I’m not trying to make it like its David and Goliath cuz it’s not. But Indiana is the No. 1 team in the country.” Derrick Nix addressed the chance of a letdown, “As basketball players you seem to get happy with success. Our coaches do a good job of keeping us accountable every day. Our coaches do a good job.”
Michigan State gave the Hoosiers all they wanted in Bloomington earlier this year when they fell 75 to 70. The Spartans took the Hoosiers best shot in front on an amazing crowd and with Keith Appling nearly non-existent.
Appling said of the Tuesday matchup, “”Indiana is a very good team and if we come out lackadaisical and don’t play hard were gonna come up short. We don’t want that to happen. Obviously we will come out and play forty minutes.”
Looking ahead to Tuesday the Spartans are ready. “They (Indiana) are a good team, I am just excited to be in the Brez again. The Brez is gonna be shaking again and that is what we came here though. Our fans, Spartan Nation are behind us and I am pretty sure they are ready for the game just like we are,” Adreian Payne said.
The Spartans have struggled based on their standards as of late with rebounding, but not tonight. They had a 41-23 advantage on the board and Derrick Nix gave credit to a Spartan that isn’t on the team anymore for it. “Day Day posted us up on it.” We just don’t go to glass like we supposed to. That is disrespectful to the program.” Tom Izzo expounded on the Warriors rookie and what he did for the Spartans this past week. “Our kid Draymond Green was in town for two days and kinda drilled them.” Izzo added about the rebounding that, “We rebounded the ball well and that was the difference.”
But back to the Huskers. There is no doubt Coach Tim Miles has this team on the up and the Spartans had a lot of praise for them. Izzo said, “They are very solid, they do a lot of great things. Give credit to Nebraska because they sure didn’t quit.”
How worried was Izzo about this trap game? “I feared it the whole time. This team is not mature enough yet. We did hold them as accountable as we can.”
If the stats are the story and sometimes they aren’t, they were in this game. The Spartans bigs ruled this game. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix each had a double double. Payne had 15 points and 14 boards and Nixer added 11 rebounds and 13 points.
Gary Harris had 14 points for the Spartans to go with it, but the bigger story was Keith Appling. He had 16 points, three blocks, four assists and a rebound to go with some great leadership. He is getting better seemingly with every game and Izzo said, “I was very proud of Keith. The way he ran our team.” Izzo nailed it.
One player who is improving steadily under the leadership of Izzo this year is Denzel Valentine. Valentine had seven big points and seven rebounds. He is maturing into a player that will be very special and he is showing more of those glimpses each game, and for longer stretches. He played 24 minutes.
Izzo played nine players and the Spartans shot a very respectable 51%. The Spartans held the Huskers to only 36% shooting. The Spartans went over the double digit line for turnovers with 13, but considering they had 10 at the half, it was impressive.
Matt Costello continues to improve. In just eight minutes he contributed some great screens, four points, two blocks and two boards.
So who is kidding who? We all know that the biggest thing about this game was that the Spartans won and in true Izzo style (tournament) it was survive and advance. In a trap game, against a team and coach that preach toughness, the Spartans went on the road in the Big Ten and won by nine. Spartan Nation will take that, now bring on the Hoosiers.