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My good friend and fellow journalist Bob Tripi informed me of an interesting fact yesterday. “Last time Michigan State beat a Big 10 team by less than 8 pts was 2015 Big10 tourney semis vs Maryland, 62-58.”
Tom Izzo had bemoaned earlier this week that his team had not had in close games. Think about that above fact. Now think about this. With the 64-61 win over Purdue last night Michigan State has now won 12 of their last 13. They are on a roll.
So I asked Tom Izzo about the fact that it had been a year since his Spartans had won a Big Ten game by less than eight points and can getting a close win help them as they progress this off season. His answer was emphatic.
“It's hard to simulate. Everybody says you've got to know what you're going to run down the stretch. Like, did you ever do this? If anybody has ever done this, you're a better man than me. But I've never gone to a practice and said, okay, let's practice miss a free throw.”
He continued trying to put it in context saying, “Last year against Indiana and this year against Maryland, we're supposed to miss a free throw at the end and we made them. I don't know if Zel -- I'm trying to figure out if he was being defiant, if he's trying to catch Buddy Hield, or if he just made a mistake. But I think he just made a mistake. It's something you don't work on. You don't work on missing free throws. I'm never doing that. And I think we got to get a little better on things down the stretch. But we ran some pretty good stuff. We just turned the ball over. Matt had that layup that one time. Ball went right through his hands.”
For senior center Matt Costello, he thinks that although the Spartans didn’t play great this was a blessing. “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.”
Denzel Valentine went even deeper. He thinks MSU can turn a close win into a learning experience, “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.”
In the Big Dance and even in a championship game like today vs. Purdue you look for those close games. You expect them. They are the DNA of March. All winning is a learning experience, and last night’s close win over Maryland could end up being a big reason this team brings back to East Lansing some championship hardware!
The Spartans will return to action today 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. The Spartans are sporting a record of 28-5 on the season.