Banker Life Fieldhouse
The Michigan State Spartans declared that they want to, “Win 9” as in nine games this post season to accumulate a Big Ten Tournament & NCAA Tournament title. With a 64-61 win here in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis they can now declare WIN & 7!
Bryn Forbes struggled for the second straight game and for the second straight time the Spartans proved they are more than one dimensional. Forbes shot only 2/6 from the field for four points, but was able to still contribute on defense. A big sign of his maturity.
Tom Izzo said of the game, “Hey, we won! You know, we won. And I think every big tournament run I've been involved in this last year at Louisville, national championship, Syracuse down 14, Iowa State down 16, the problem -- one thing we've had -- and I've got to take a lot of blame for it -- we've not been in a lot of close games. I think of the last 12 games we've had one close game. And it's hard to simulate that. It's hard to think about what you want to do.”
Izzo continued with, “And I didn't think we played as well as far as -- I thought give Maryland a lot of credit. I thought that he played as hard as I've seen them play in a long time. But I just didn't think we executed as well offensively. Now, defensively, I think we're pretty good. Holding them to 33 and 36. And other than some threes we gave up in the first half, we rebounded okay. But we got sloppy in the second half turning the ball over, as Zel said, and uncharacteristic of us.”
So does he have any good feeling with another win? “But this win will feel better when I get home. I just -- we have bigger dreams than to win a game right now, and I guess that's -- if you don't learn from the mistakes you make, if they're not addressed, you never get better at them. And so these two are going to address them. I'm going to address them. And then we're going to move on to Purdue”
Denzel Valentine was his usual impressive self. The nation’s best player had 18 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Matt Costello had 10 points and five rebounds and was the only other Spartan in double digits on a slow night for the Spartans.
Costello waxed poetic about the Spartans win telling me afterward that, “I think it's good we had a tight game today. It proved we were able to win with our defense. But we were so sorry on offense for the last 10 minutes. We can improve on that leaps and bounds I know it starts with me with turnovers. But other than that, our defense is good. But we need to clean up on offense.”
The Spartans won the battle of the boards 38-31, but to nearly their own demise won the turnover stats 13-6, the wrong way. MSU continued their unselfish play with 15 assists on 21 baskets. Considering Forbes struggling MSU still shot 42% from the field.
Maryland head Coach Mark Turgeon said of this semi-final tilt that, “If you like defense that was a heck of a college basketball game. Two teams that I thought really defended and tried to rebound and tried to execute. Obviously, I was really proud of my team. Talked about this morning that we couldn't play the game in the 80s, had to play the game in the 60s. We learned a lot about ourselves today. The best we've guarded in a long time. We competed on the boards. They still got us by 7. We were better on the offensive rebounds. We had 11, which is good. So just proud of our group. But in the end, the last three minutes, they were able to make one or two more plays than we were, than we could. And Davis had the big block in there, which is big. Would have put us up one. And they made free throws. We missed a couple down the stretch. But I was proud of my team. We had a chance. Melo got all the way to the rim. Robert had his hands on the ball. Just wasn't meant to be.”
Denzel Valentine told me about this game, “Coach of Maryland, they had a heck of a game plan. They forced us to do some things offensively that we're not used to doing. They kind of took us out of our game. We kind of panicked there in the second half. And I think that was the biggest thing that we need to do and to learn from, is if teams give us a different look on offense and when it's a tight game like that, we need to find a way to win. And we found a way to win. But it wasn't pretty, and we're going to learn from it.”
Maryland star Rasheed Sulaimon credited Michigan State, “Michigan State, all credit goes to them. They're one of the best teams in the country, and I think we proved today that playing at a high level and playing with a lot of effort, we can compete at a very high level. So it's heartbreaking. But at the same time, I think we're going to try to bounce back and head into the tournament strong.”
The Spartans will return to action tomorrow at 3PM vs. the Purdue Boilermakers. The game can be seen on CBS with immediately following coverage of where the Spartans will be seeded and going to play in the Big Dance. With this win tonight the Spartans improve their record to 28-5 on the season.