November 30, 2011
Exit Analysis: MSU 65, Florida State 49
EAST LANSING - Tom Izzo seemed to feel good and satisfied about his basketball team on Wednesday night - probably because they played more like a football team. MSU improved to 5-2 and gave the Big Ten its seventh win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, clinching victory for the Big Ten.
Izzo, the biggest football fan in town - just days before the Michigan State football Spartans face Wisconsin with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line - believes his team's 65-49 victory over Florida State at Breslin Center in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge most likely would have met the approval of Spartan footballers.
"Mark Dantonio had to love that game," Izzo said. "It was kind of old school basketball in a way. I thought it was as physical and hard-fought as we could play.
"We had guys bloodied up, sprained ankles, maybe a broken jaw and it all sounded great to me."
Brandon Wood lost a tooth, Austin Thornton suffered a severely bruised jaw that was initially thought to be broken, Draymond Green battled a lower body ailment and Branden Dawson was slowed by a sprained ankle.
"That was a big win for us," Izzo said. "They are a very, very good team and I thought defensively, we were very good."
Keith Appling scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. He also had seven rebounds.
Draymond Green scored 16 points (5-of-14 shooting).
"When our two best players start playing better, which they did tonight, a good team becomes potentially a real good team," Izzo said of Appling and Green. "That's the direction we're heading.
"The intensity in the huddle was great," Izzo added. "It was kind of like old times. We are going to get this back to where it belongs, and where it belongs is by gritting their teeth."
And maybe getting one or two knocked out.
"That means a lot to me, being involved in winning that challenge," Green said. "The Big Ten is one of the best teams out there, and us winning this challenge three years in a row kind of supports that."
Brandon Wood had 16 points and 10 rebounds, along with five assists and no turnovers. He also played strong defense.
"We ran some things for him (Wood)," Izzo said. "Not only did he make shots, but we got shots for him. We are starting to run our offense a little better."
Green and eclipsed the 1,000-point career scoring mark.
"That's all fine and dandy," Green said. "I have to thank all my current and former teammates that have put me in position to be successful."
What Really Happened Happened
Appling stepped forward and drove the game, at a critical moment.
The sophomore point guard spurred a 7-0 run which pushed a 2-point lead to 9 at 51-42 with 8:01 left. MSU was never threatened again.
Appling began the 7-0 run with a drive into the lane against a Florida State big man. Appling called for the clear-out and went to work against the FSU power forward after a favorable switch. Appling drew a foul and hit both free throws.
On the next trip, Appling beat his man with a cross-over dribble and fed Green with a neat high feed. Green missed a power lay-up, but tipped in the miss. Appling didn't get credit for an assist, but he made the play.
At the other end, Appling shut off a baseline drive by a Florida State guard.
Then, Appling immediately hit a 3-pointer from the left wing, to give MSU the 51-42 lead.
"Like I told him, that's the Keith Appling I know - not trying to over-pass, not forcing anything, taking what the defense gives you and running with it," Green said.
With Thornton out due to the jaw problem and Dawson limited by an ankle, MSU had to go with a three-guard lineup of Appling, Wood and Trice more often than usual. But Appling was at the controls.
"I wanted the ball in Appling's hands because he can get by people and he felt good," Izzo said. "You kind of go with your horse and Keith was the horse I think he should be. He sure did look like the player I thought he would be this year - under tough circumstances too, because those (FSU) guards can really check. They were good."
Green was impressed with the increasing toughness of his teammates.
"These guys are willing to go to war," Green said. "They are not backing down from anybody. That's what we need, some guys that are not going to back down. That's a tough Florida State team that we played. If we didn't finish it out, they would have come back and won. But our guys fought back.
"I'm not satisfied because we still have room to grow, but I'm satisfied with tonight, with the way those guys stepped up."
MSU's big men may not have logged a lot of stats, but they bumped and banged, commanded airspace, and allowed Spartan guards to win loose balls and chase down range rebounds.
"Michigan State exploited our inability to hold a big, strong team off," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. "Two of their guards had 17 rebounds and 40 points. Kind of broke our backs."
Spartan guards made a concerted effort to provide help defense in the post, but clawing at FSU big men when they posted up, or "digging" as Izzo calls it.
"When they got it down there, without help, I thought those (FSU post players) were very good," Izzo said. "Digging down from up high was part of our game plan and it worked pretty good. Tonight we did a good job of rallying to the ball and knocking it loose down there."
Freshman Travis Trice didn't dent the stat sheet, but he was a positive factor. He was excellent with help-digs. He was quick and combative as a help defender, and on-ball pest.
"I thought Trice did an incredible job," Izzo said. "He had some steals and deflections. He ran things pretty good."
Trice had 3 points, 2 assists and 0 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Trice worked hard to trail FSU guards through screens and disrupt shooting opportunities.
"Our guards were beat at the end," Izzo said. "Those (FSU) guards were moving all over, and we were trailing them and trying not to give them any threes. They were 4-for-20 (from 3-point range), but there was an expenditure of energy to do that."
MSU shot 42 percent from 3-point range (8 of 19), its best accuracy of the season.
Former Spartan great Magic Johnson reached out to Green with a phone call on Tuesday night. Green had been slumping, and Johnson wanted to offer support.
"He said, 'Do what you do best. Play with energy, smile, get the crowd involved, have fun, and the things that you do best will come back to you," Green said.
Izzo also had some words with Green on Tuesday night.
"I told him last night, 'I haven't had many guys that I have asked to do as many things as I ask of you,'" Izzo said.
Izzo got a lot out of Green against the Seminoles.
"He drove the ball some, shot the ball some, had a couple of rebounds, defended awfully well and helped awfully well," Izzo said. "That's a full day's work, for a guy that we can't let cheat in any area. I was awfully proud of his performance."
Izzo said he often asks Green to have heart-to-heart talks with players. Izzo advised Green to have a heart-to-heart with himself.
"So I sat down in the hotel, and spoke into my MacBook last night and recorded it, just talking to myself," Green said. "I did this when B.J. was out at someone else's room, because I didn't want him to think I was crazy. But I just talked for seven or eight minutes, then I played it back and listened to it."
Green said he felt all those things helped him clear his head and play a steady, productive game against Florida State.
On the negative side, Dawson and Adreian Payne each had spells when they forget what they were supposed to do in half-court play.
"I was kind of on those guys about that," Izzo said. "But Payne battled for rebounds. He didn't get many but he kept some alive. He did a decent job in there.
"Nix has to do a little bit better job, but he did some things too. Those are two pretty good inside players in there (for Florida State)."
Russell Byrd is back to practicing every day. He had been taking occasional days off as he continues to recover from last season's foot injury.
"We had him at the four in other games because of concerns about quickness," Izzo said. "But now we can play him more at the three and maybe get a rotation going with him and B.J. (Dawson). I think he will make some progress."
"I think we have a high ceiling. We really do. But we have a long way to go. We did enough things wrong tonight. We let them back int he game twice."
"To be honest with you, (Thornton) was really playing well. I don't know what his stats were, or even if he had any, but defensively, running the lane, all the things Brandon wasn't doing, he was doing. I thought he brought tremendous energy to us. He played eight minutes but it was an important eight minutes during that run."
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