Buckeye Win over Spartans Leaves Izzo Frustrated
By John Porentas
There was pain in Tom Izzo's face after his team's 71-61 loss to Ohio State last night.
Izzo's Spartans have been a force in the Big Ten conference over the last few seasons, but this year's squad has stumbled to a 14-11 record and a 6-7 record in the Big Ten. Those are not Izzoesque numbers.
His team had an opportunity to resurrect its season in Columbus last night. A win over the Buckeyes would have put the Spartans back in the news, and gotten them serious NCAA consideration.
It was obvious as the game played out that the Spartans knew that and came to play. The amount of quit in them was zero. They fought, scrapped and banged like their basketball lives depended on the outcome of this game, and perhaps it did, but in the end they came up short. Their effort got them nothing but another "L", and left their coach frustrated and emotional.
Sitting in the front seat of the post-game press conference, it was clear that Izzo was choking back emotion as he did his best to be magnanimous in defeat. He sometimes stumbled on words, was a bit rambling at times, and his hand visibly shook as he held the box score to read it. None of that is Izzoesque either.
Through the years Izzo's teams have earned win after win with the Izzo formula. That includes great rebounding, great shot selection, great ball security while a tough defense forces opposition turnovers, and the ability to outscore the opponent at the free throw line.
When Izzo looked at the postgame box score what he found was that his team had accomplished the first two things, but that the Buckeyes had stolen a page out his own playbook on the other two. OSU outscored MSU 23-5 from the free throw line. The Buckeyes turned the Spartans over 19 times while turning the ball over themselves just 7 times.
"We did just about everything we wanted to do in this game. We did just about everything we wanted to do except turn the damned ball over and never get to the free throw line," a frustrated Izzo said to begin his press conference.
Izzo's team had clearly invested emotionally in this game, as had their head coach. What seemed to be sticking in his craw was that the Buckeyes had beaten them the very way the Spartans have become accustomed to winning.
"The free throws, it seemed like they just walked to the line every frickin' time," said Izzo.
"That bothered me, but we must of did a poor job of covering in that respect."
It was unclear whether Izzo was miffed with the officiating or simply frustrated, but listening to Thad Matta, what was clear was that the Buckeyes had a game plan to make the game play out just the way it did.
"I thought we did a good job off the penetration and maybe got inside their defense a little bit and forced some of the fouls on the drives," said Matta.
"For us, we were telling our guys 'Do not foul them.' I thought they did a pretty good job of it.
"I thought we were in pretty good position there down the stretch. We had some fouls to give. That was by design.
"We kept talking about it during the timeouts, that whatever you do, don't foul. Just challenge the shot and rebound it."
That strategy gave OSU the free throw edge. OSU's defense gave them the edge in the turnover department.
"I thought Craft was a very instrumental part of that because Kalin (Lucas) did to me a phenomenal job considering he had that ball in his hands and getting dogged and never getting a break," said Izzo.
"They need him (Craft) to penetrate and kick and run the team. We need Kalin to score, coach the team, run the team, buy popcorn, all that, and he just wears down a little bit."
Izzo also credited OSU's team balance for causing the Spartans headaches.
"Diebler didn't score a ton, but the two he made were daggers.
"Give Buford credit, he made a lot of big plays and I thought the defense, Craft kind of wore Kalin down because I couldn't sub him much."
It was too much for the Spartans despite what was obviously a tremendous effort on their part. Izzo tried to put a positive spin on the outcome, but his statements began sounding more like wishful thinking than positives statements.
"I wouldn't count us dead yet," he said.
"This team is a pretty good team. If we can regroup a little bit here down the stretch, if we can ever get three guys playing well together instead of just two, I think we could still do something.
"We're gonna finish strong. We're going to make a run at it some how, some way. That's all I can say.
"Ohio State deserved it. They played well. They're a good team. I think they'll do well, hopefully nationally, for the league and for themselves, but we ain' t dead yet."
Maybe not, but the Spartans are definitely wounded. Somebody needs to call 911 for them.
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