Holding an opponent scoreless for the opening 10 minutes of a game, as part of a 32-point victory would have most basketball coaches excited.
But Wednesday night, Tom Izzo was anything but.
The No. 19 MSU basketball team (7-2) blew out Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-7) 76-44, but a sloppy second half and 19 turnovers had Izzo frustrated with his team’s showing.
“That was, in a way, one of our worst performances of the year,” Izzo said.
“We started playing the score instead of the game and that is just not acceptable. … I don’t know who I’m more disappointed in — a few guys, or myself. I’m going to take 99 percent of the blame,
vow that I’m going to change it and go from there.”
Izzo said one of his biggest irritations, and the reason he’ll take most of the blame, is because he continued to play a rotation of 11 players six minutes or more after saying earlier in the week his rotation would shrink.
“I did something I said I wouldn’t do,” Izzo said. “Instead of shrinking my playing group, I let my heart get where my head is and played some guys that maybe just weren’t ready to play. I wasn’t pleased with the game at all.”
The desired rotation, which Izzo has said features seven guys he’s sure of — his starting five plus sophomore guard Travis Trice and junior center Adreian Payne — still has openings for a couple additional players, but Izzo appears to be growing impatient with waiting for it to materialize.
One player that seems to have emerged as a contender for one of the remaining rotation spots is sophomore guard Brandan Kearney.
“I’m looking for guys like me,” Izzo said.
“I need somebody to show some emotion. If that’s what they don’t want to do, this is a bad place for them. I need some people that have some passion about what they do, and if it’s not their personality, I don’t really care. I’m looking for somebody that I want to know it’s important to them.”
The duo of Trice and Payne drew praise from the Spartans head coach for their performance off the bench, with Izzo saying his center played “like a beast” in the first half, and adding he’s accepted his new role coming off the bench well.
Payne finished the game with six points and eight rebounds and brought early energy that helped MSU open the game with a 30-4 surge.
After rolling his ankle in the second half, Payne was able to return to the floor and despite the brief injury, felt he didn’t bring the necessary energy in the second half.
Trice, who said he felt his most comfortable since returning from a concussion and a broken nose a week ago, agreed the only thing holding his teammate back is consistency.
“(Payne) doesn’t understand how good he can be,” said Trice, who finished with 12 points and five assists.
“I mean, some of the things he does in practice we’re just sitting back like ‘wow, I can’t believe he just did that.’ His big thing is if he can do that all the time and be consistent with it.”