December 5, 2011

Izzo sees progress in fastbreak, wants more

EAST LANSING - Tom Izzo felt the Spartans made good on one of their chief objectives during Sunday's 110-68 victory over Nebraska-Omaha and heading into two challenging games this week.

"We need a chance to get our running game going, and we got that," Izzo said during Monday's weekly press conference.

Racking up a 42-margin of victory isn't something that excites Izzo. But registering 35 assists did meet Izzo's approval.

"The last time we had that many assists, Mateen had 20 himself," Izzo said of Michigan State's 116-67 Senior Day victory over Michigan in 2000. "(This time), nobody had more than seven."

Nine Spartans had at least two assists.

"So we had a lot of guys sharing the ball," Izzo said. "I think our fastbreak was a little better this year (than in last year's victory over Nebraska-Omaha). I thought we moved the ball."

The chief mover, new point guard Keith Appling, had seven assists.

"I think Keith Appling probably made the biggest strides when you look at unselfishness," Izzo said. "Yesterday, it was improtant to him to try to get 10 assists. I think he did a great job of that."

Appling was 5-of-6 from the field for 13 points, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range.

"He is shooting the ball better," Izzo said. "Keith is so athletic and quick and fast with the ball that a non-break can become a one-man break that he can create that can lead to some other guys getting shots. We tel lhim he has to push it to the top of the three-point line and then make decisions when you get there. Earlier (in the year), I think he was looking at it like when we don't have numbers, we don't have a break. But I want to keep constant pressure."

Izzo likes Appling's progress in that area, but the wings still are not running satisfactorily.

"He is (pushing the break), but we're not," Izzo said. "We have to go from 'he' to 'we.'

"Brandon Wood is getting better at it sometimes. B.J. Branden Dawson and Russell Byrd, they have to improve in that area and that will make Keith Appling better. If we have people running those wings, they have to guard them, that means they have to guard Keith Appling one-on-one, and that's hard to do."

Izzo Surprised By Saban's Vote

Former Michigan State football coach Nick Saban ranked a few feelings in East Lansing when he voted Michigan State No. 17 in his final ballot in the national coach's poll. Saban voted Michigan No. 8.

Izzo, a long-time friend of Saban's and a big supporter of MSU football, was not aware of Saban's vote when Izzo was asked to comment about it on Monday.

"Did that really happen?" Izzo asked. "I guess that surprises me a little bit for a lot of reasons. Number one, from a football standpoint we have earned our keep on where we are. Then again, probably like basketball there is probably so little difference between the two. But I don't think it's anything bad. I know him and Mark (Dantonio) have a decent relationship and I don't think Nick has any ill feeling toward Michigan State. But it surprises me a little bit."

Defensive Concerns About Central Connecticut State

Michigan State (6-2) will see a trio of dangerous shooter-scorers when the Spartans play host to Central Connecticut State (5-2) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Breslin Center.

MSU will then play at Gonzaga at 9 p.m. on Saturday in the last major challenge of the pre-conference season.

Izzo believes both games will test MSU's three-point shooting defense.

"Guarding the three will take on a new life this week, not just this game (against Central Connecticut State)," Izzo said. "Those kind of things will help us. Gonzaga has some guys shooting it real well."

CCSU is shooting 40.4 for the season from 3-point range.

"They have three guys averaging more than 20 points per game," Izzo said. "They have been to the NCAA Tournament in recent years and they can shoot it. The difference with this team is they have two guys - a forward and a guard - who actually have a three-point shooting game, a mid-range game and a lay-up/dunk game. They can do all three phrases."

CCSU has won five straight over Army, Maryland-Baltimore County, Hartford, Bryant and Sacred Heart since beginning the season with a 102-93 loss at Niagara.

Notes And Quotes

  • As of Monday afternoon, Izzo still had not watched Michigan State's Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin. He missed the game in order to attend the season opening game for high school superstar Jabari Parker in Chicago. Parker, a 6-7 forward, is ranked the No. 2 junior in the country. Izzo was the only college head coach in attendance.

    Izzo was introduced by the P.A. announcer at the UIC Pavilion. Izzo stood up and waved.

  • "This 24-hour day? Bad invention. We need 44 l. Like, why would you have Thanksgiving and Christmas during basketball season? Bad deal. It takes away (time)."

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