East Lansing, MI
The Spartans came into this game with a six game winning streak in hand after taking care of six cupcakes in a row.Â You may remember they started the season with two of the best teams in the nation in Duke and North Carolina.Â Central Connecticut isnâ€™t a world power, but they are a very good basketball team.
With a bench depleted by injury that looked like a scene out of the movie Hoosiers, the Blue Devils ran out of steam in the second half after leading most of the first.Â The Blue Devils are well coached by former UCONN/Jim Calhoun assistant Howie Dickenman.Â He said of the game, â€œWe played well for 21 or 22 minutes and then got worn down.Â I was pleased we had only 11 turnovers and 23 offensive rebounds.Â We gave it our best shot.â€
MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo had high praise for the Blue Devils.Â He said, â€œI give Howieâ€™s team credit, they almost out rebounded us and played well.â€Â The Spartans won the rebounding war 44-37.
Izzo did not wax as poetic about his Spartans as he said, â€œFirst time I have been all year more disappointed on focus and effort.Â When people, fans, media, talk shows wonder why coaches donâ€™t give to much credit, it is because people canâ€™t take it.Â I had a couple of guys that didnâ€™t check anybody tonight.â€
He expounded on his anger with his team adding, â€œThe credit I give them from now on will have to be earned and not given.â€
Izzo was so angry that after he tore into his team in the locker room, he left for his media session.Â The team went into a fifteen-minute players only meeting.
If there was a silver lining to yet another win over an alphabet soup team it was the coming out party of freshman point guard sensation Travis Trice.Â He poured in a team high 20 points, three rebounds and five assists in only 22 minutes.Â
Clearly this team will go as far as Trice takes them as the only true point guard on the team.Â He had a great game for the Spartans with Izzo saying of his young star, â€œTrice looked good, Trice makes some shotsâ€¦Give Travis credit he did push the ball.â€
Trice who continually handles questions with the humility of an upper classmen took his great game in stride. He said of his performance, â€œI played alright, but at the end of the day it is about the team and the team didnâ€™t play well so I canâ€™t enjoy it.â€
His teammates were not as reserved as he was.Â Branden Dawson said, â€œIt made me smile to see Travis out there having fun.Â He wasnâ€™t thinking he was just going hard and playing.Â When he plays with a smile you know he is in his flow.â€Â
Sophomore Russell Byrd added about Trice, â€œHis toughness is outstanding and his ability to play the game can rival anyone.Â He was just doing his job and I loved to see him pull up in transition.â€
Derrick Nix had another good night.Â He played 21 minutes and had 13 points, six rebounds and two assists.Â Nix said of his play, â€œMy teammates gave me the ball.Â I am just bringing more energy trying to come out and play as well as I can.â€
Keith Appling struggled.Â He only had seven points in 31 minutes and at times looked disinterested.
Adreian Payne also struggled, getting pulled out one minute into the game after starting.Â In fact when was the last time you saw a starter only play eight minutes when he didnâ€™t face injury or foul troubles.Â He finished with three rebounds and six points.
Izzo didnâ€™t hold back on his criticism of Payne.Â â€œWhen you start with the jump ball and knock it into the nickel seats that tells you where his mind is.â€
Transfer senior Brandon Wood had his worse game as a Spartan on both ends of the court.Â He only scored two points and Izzo said of his defense, â€œHe didnâ€™t guard anybody.â€Â
Another super freshman Branden Dawson had his first career double double.Â He had eleven boards and eleven points in only 18 minutes, saying of his performance â€œIt was a big relief for me.Â I came out with not enough energy, but I found my flow and picked it up.â€
Draymond Green was one rebound from a double double.Â He had nine to go along with 14 points. His biggest contribution may have been in calling the players only meeting.
The price of poker goes up for the Spartans as they next suit up against Gonzaga on Saturday night in Spokane, WA.Â They are team not exactly like, but similar to Florida State with better guard play.Â They head out West on Thursday.
At this point in the season my predictions have stood correct. MSU is seven and two.Â Letâ€™s hope I am wrong for the first time on Saturday has I predicted the Spartans to lose that game.