Spartans Pounce on and Destroy the Gophers to Give Tom Izzo his 400th Career win: 68-52

There are many things you could talk about tonight after the Michigan State Spartans blew out the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a score of 68-52. You could talk about how the Spartans are in first place in the Big Ten. That would be a great topic, but not tonight.

You could talk about Draymond Green who had another double double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and added six assists. Izzo said of Day Day after the game, “I have been blessed with a lot of great players. Usually it is hard to be blessed with great players that are good in a lot of different categories. I just see how far the kid has grown and it makes me feel really good. I talked to Morris Petersen last night and I said, ‘Draymond is taking steps like you did.’ He is a special guy and is one of the best Spartans I’ve ever had.” An amazing compliment, that we will revisit at anther time it isn’t fitting for tonight.

There are so many things you can talk about, but only one matters on this tonight. Over an illustrious career Tom Izzo won number 400 of his head-coaching career tonight. An amazing milestone, and a number that could have been much higher had he chose to schedule cupcakes (and avoid the tough pre conference games that he is known for) like Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.

Izzo was humbled that the win came against perhaps his best friend in the Big Ten group of coaches: Tubby Smith. Smith said after the game, “I want to congratulate Tom Izzo on his 400th win. He certainly is a class guy. His teams play extremely hard. He’s a great coach and a great friend. I didn’t want to be his 400th win, but he’s a guy you know who does things the right way. His teams always come ready to play. I’m real honored to coach against him and have him in the league.”

Izzo’s new assistant Dane Fife had more praise for his boss saying, “Having been from a family with a great coach (Fife’s dad) and our family has always had so much respect for coach Izzo. It is moment like right now that I can really appreciate why my family has always had so much respect for coach Izzo and why I am so fortunate to learn under him and work for him.”

The praise didn’t just come from his fellow coaches, but from his players also. Draymond Green told me of what being a part of his legacy means to him, “I definitely appreciate being a part of his moment, but I also recognize that I am only a small part of all of this.” 

Derrick Nix echoed his captain saying of Coach Izzo, “He gave me my chance. I wouldn’t be doing all that I am doing without coach. He is tough on me and asks a lot of me, but he is totally right. Tonight is a good reminder that he the man.”

Izzo was reluctant to take the credit on a big night, but with tears still in his eyes he tried to deflect the praise saying, “Meant a lot, but there are a lot of guys that have won a lot more games.”

Turning to the game, on a night when his backcourt couldn’t do anything offensively, Izzo was without star freshman point guard Travis Trice. Trice sat out with a hip injury and described that injury to me as, “I hurt my hip in the Michigan game and it just keeps getting worse. I couldn’t even walk on it.” He would describe it to my colleague Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News as a sports hernia/groin type injury.

Izzo said of his lack of offensive production from his starting guards, “For us to win a game like that when our starting backcourt goes one for 12, I thought we had some pretty good looks; we just didn’t shoot it very well.”

Izzo’s Spartans had only ten turnovers (14 for Minnesota) and shot 54% from the field. Their defense demoralized the Gophers allowing them to shoot just 38%.   The Spartans also won the rebounding battle nabbing 32 to the Gophers 25. 

The Spartans now have six days off, until they tip it off in Champaign, IL against the Fighting Illini on January 31, 2012 at 7 PM. That game can be seen on ESPN nationally.

Sure the Spartans have to play much better when they head to Illinois, but that is not what the topic of conversation is tonight. Tonight it is about an amazing 400 wins for the most ICONIC coach in Michigan State history since Duffy Daugherty.