November 14, 2011

From one 'circus' to another: MSU prepares for Duke

EAST LANSING - If nothing else, Michigan State enters Tuesday's game against Duke in New York City with some of the most experienced freshmen in the country.

First-year players Branden Dawson and Travis Trice played extensively, and sometimes impressively, during Michigan State 67-55 loss to No. 1-ranked North Carolina on Friday night in the Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego, in front of president Barack Obama, thousands of United States servicemen, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, the ESPN crew, stone-faced secret servicemen, fuzzy-faced rock band Five for Fighting, Pam Anderson, three million television viewers and of course Morris Peterson.

"I think we were very poor at getting into our offense at times," Izzo said. "I blame a little bit of it on being starry-eyed."

Dawson played 35 minutes, through a strained knee injury scare, logging 10 points and seven rebounds. Trice, a back-up point guard, had four points and three assists in 20 minutes of work against the Tar Heels.

"If you are a freshman and you are in that setting, I don't know how you would handle it because I struggled to handle it a little bit," Izzo said. "It was a circus. It was something I will guarantee you that will go down as one of the best memory-makers for all the kids, all the people that were there."

Next up: A trip to the media capital of the world in the World's Most Famous Arena against Duke with Mike Krzyzewski needing one win to become the all-time leader in coaching victories in college basketball history.

"Am I looking forward to getting back to normality?," Izzo said. "I'm not sure that will be the case in New York. I think Mike has a polish circus going on there."

The Duke-Michigan State game is part of the inaugural State Farm Champions Classic (7 p.m., ESPN).

Big game. But not quite the Carrier Classic.

"Probably not quite the same, but you still are playing in Madison Square Garden, which most NBA people will tell you is still the greatest venue to play in," Izzo said. "There is going to be some falderal around this. This is a big thing when you think about a guy breaking a record to have more wins than I've had practices. Those are not things that go on, on a yearly state."

Krzyzewski has 902 wins, and needs one more victory to break Bob Knight's all-time record. Izzo, seemingly an eternal and often-frustrated Krzyzewski chaser, knows he is on deck to be an expected ceremonial loser.

"You never want to be the guy that threw to Hank Aaron," Izzo said. "But I'm not looking at that one way or another. It's an incredible feat, that he is trying to get. I hope he gets there, I just hope it's not on our night."

In a matter of five days, Michigan State will have been involved in the two biggest college basketball games of the year.

"Even in the ESPN commercial, it doesn't even talk about the Kansas-Kentucky game," Izzo said.

The Jayhawks and Wildcats will play in the second game of the Champions Classic.

"It's just Duke-Michigan State," Izzo said. "On the other side of the coin, that's an advantage for Michigan State. We get to play in a game that will be watched by the entire nation, for a lot of different reasons, and one being the possible accomplishment that he (Krzyzewski) could do."

Dawson Doing Okay

Dawson is experiencing some soreness associated with the knee strain he sustained on Friday, but the 6-foot-6 freshman forward is expected to start.

Michigan State had to take Saturday off due to NCAA practice limitation rules. The Spartans practiced twice on Sunday. Dawson missed most of the first practice,
but saw action in the second practice.

"It wasn't precautionary, he just couldn't really go hard," Izzo said. "But he did do a better job in the second practice, going a little bit, so I'm hoping by today that thing has settled down and we're ready to go."

Darn Logo Decal

Dawson sustained the injury while slipping and falling on a temporary logo decal on the court at the Carrier Classic. Izzo pointed at the logo in anger while going out to check on the fallen Dawson after he went down. Izzo then kick-scuffed the Quicken Loans logo on his way off the court, not yet knowing the severity of Dawson's injury.

Dawson returned to the game a few minutes later, but Izzo's anger with the logos only intensified.

"Everybody has made a big deal about the logos," Izzo said. "I made it last year at Maui because I think it really kind of cost us a game against UConn (when a Spartan player slipped at a crucial juncture, leading to a turnover). Mike Kryzewski has made a big deal about it.

"Maybe we should look at what they do in the NFL as far as super-imposing them for TV. In the U.P. we would put a little chalk on the floor and maybe it wouldn't be as bad.

"But those things (court decals) are a problem. They have been a problem for years. And I'm sure they're getting bigger, and more of them.

"I was watching a game last year and it looked like the Denver Nuggets of basketball courts. There were more tattoos on the court than Carter had liver pills."

Izzo has brought up the court decal issue in meetings as part of national coaching committees.

"Not many teams play a lot of games with those, so it is hard to get a groundswell (of support)," Izzo said. "All of us were vehemently upset with it (in San Diego), in talking to Roy (Williams) afterward and hearing what Mike has said."

Izzo Comments On Gary Harris

Five-star basketball recruit Gary Harris committed to Michigan State over Indiana, Purdue and Kentucky on Wednesday. Izzo learned of the commitment while on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

"We were going on the court to take a picture, they first day we got there," Izzo said. "I didn't have my phone with me. Mike Garland did, and Gary called Mike's lin.

"So as I was taking a picture with a couple of admirals, a more important guy than that for me, called.

"That was kind of a symbolic thing. Here I am, in maybe the best venue you could ever be on, and a kid called me and said he was coming (to Michigan State).

"We were excited. I think our other recruits are excited.

"The hardest thing was telling DayDay (Draymond Green) not to Tweet it."

Green is a prolific Tweeter. Izzo, MSU players and coaches were not abl Te to comment publicly on a recruit until he signed a letter of intent. Davis signed on Thursday.

Appling More Time At The Two?

Trice has primarily served as a replacement for starting point guard Keith Appling during MSU's two exhibition games, and the Spartans' first regular season game against North Carolina. They have rarely seen the court together. But Izzo said he would like to get them on the court together more in the near future, as a means of getting Appling time at shooting guard.

Appling played exclusively as a shooting guard last year. He led the Spartans in 3-point shooting last season as a true freshman, making 41 percent from long range.

Appling moved full-time to the point guard position this season, and has struggled with his shot. He was 2-of-7 from the field against North Carolina, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range.

Appling was 0-for-9 from 3-point range in Michigan State's two exhibition games.

"I see playing Appling and Trice together a little bit more in general in a lot of games," Izzo said.

Trice was just 1-of-8 from the field against North Carolina, but his one field goal was a dazzling, driving high-glasser. On another occasion, he drove into the lane and delivered an alley-oop pass to Derrick Nix for dunk.

"You can see has a little pizzaz for the game," Izzo said. "He has a little understanding.

"Trice has to get through his periods, too. I like the fact that he is cocky enough to take shots. I would like the fact even better than (doing it) with :30 seconds left in a shot clock to take an NBA 3-pointer when you're down 9."

Trice jacked up a 3-pointer in transition at a point in which the Spartans had cut a 20-point lead to single digits with six minutes to play.

Trice could have offered a shot fake and fed to an open Nix underneath for a lay-up.

"But some of that is good," Izzo said. "He is a freshman that has enough grit to take the shot. Sooner or later that will be good for us."

Notes And Quotes

  • Izzo on MSU's poor shooting night against UNC, which included 2-of-20 from 3-point range: "Shooting on that court (in open air) was probably not good for anybody."

  • Senior Austin Thornton, whose role was reduced to being a bit player by the end of the 2010 season, struggled through 24 minutes against North Carolina. He was 0-for-7 from the field, with three rebounds and 2 turnovers.

    "Austin had some great shots and missed them," Izzo said.

  • True freshman wing Brandan Kearney has not yet seen action in a regular season or exhibition game. MSU is preserving the option of possibly redshirting him.

    When asked about it, Izzo said, "I will maybe look at Kearney a little bit more. We have to make some decisions right now."

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