State Farm Center (Really Assembly Hall)
Adreian Payne didn’t play again and again it didn’t matter. The Spartans improved to 17-1 6-0 with a big 78 to 62 win over the Illini tonight. It is the best start in program history. Izzo also became the 4th all time coach in Big Ten history with 215 conference wins. He passed Lou Henson tonight.
Once again the Spartans were far from perfect and once again they just found a way to keep winning. A great example was running Dawson at the five. For those wondering what the five is, it is the traditional center position.
Izzo said of that personnel decision, “Really weird. We were struggling. So we just decided to put Dawson in there to switch the five. Give my assistants and players credit that they suggested it.”
Of the game Izzo said, “I have a lot of mixed emotion. Best start in the history of our school. I always want each team to leave something and that is incredible. Something I am going to enjoy a little bit tonight with my team. Our offense didn’t look smooth, but we are making some progress. I thought Denzel played one of his best games.”
Valentine finished with 11 rebounds, 15 points, three assists and one steal. Clearly it was Denzel who was the star of the game.
Izzo said that he hopes Payne can start doing something this next week and that Friday after reading his x-rays that the medical staff, “Was pleased with progress of bone growth. He now just has to decide if he can live with the pain.”
Izzo said of being the 4th winningest coach in Big Ten history that, “I guess there are a lot of coaches I have heard say is that records are made to be broken. All it means is that I have stayed around. It’s nice.”
Here is the stat of the game. Gary Harris had 23 points on only shooting nine times. The Spartans shot a light’s out 56%. Even with the loss of Payne 10 Spartans got significant minutes. So much for shortening the rotation.
Tracy Abrams the Illini junior guard said of the game, “We didn’t defend as well as we need to come out with a win. As simple as that. We have to guard better.”
The Spartans D held the Illini to 37% shooting and MSU own the battle of the boards 38-25. MSU did have more turnovers than Illinois, 13-9. Matt Costello had six big blocks for the Spartans.
Illini head coach John Groce said, “Obviously we got beat by a very good basketball team. We made our share of mistakes. I thought our attitudes were great. Our defense has got to be better. Good teams when you make mistakes defensively know how to make you pay. Not happy they scored on their last nine possessions.”
The Spartans continue their record setting season on Tuesday when they host Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers. That game is a 7PM tip and you can see it on ESPN.