Cleaves visit, second-half defense highlight close win for Spartans
Walking into Tuesday’s game, No. 3 MSU knew it would have to contain Indiana freshman forward Noah Vonleh, who is nearly averaging a double-double in his young career.
Luckily for head coach Tom Izzo, his Spartans did just that, but the containment didn’t come until the second half.
Vonleh, who started the game scoring seven of Indiana’s first 11 points, almost went missing in the second half, scoring only four points and attempting no 3-pointers.
Sophomore forward Matt Costello said it wasn’t a matter of adjusting at halftime, but rather picking up his own game to help MSU.
“We should have (shut him down) in the first half, we knew what he was going to do, but I made the mistake of playing crappy,” Costello said. “That got him going in the first half, and (Alex Gauna) came in and shut him down, and Gavin (Schilling) did a good job. So honestly, that was my bad on that one.”
One champ to another?
Walking around the locker room after the game was a former player wearing a famous smile – Mateen Cleaves.
As a player who went through a slew of injuries during his senior year, Cleaves said he is looking at senior forward Adreian Payne and seeing someone who will be playing smarter once he recovers from his sprained foot. After all, Cleaves sat the bench nursing a foot injury, taking the role of a coach and learning from his experience.
“When I sat (on the bench), coach was like ‘Hey, you better put on that coaching suit,’ … and after that I started to look at the game in a whole different way,” Cleaves said. “(There’s) not much good you can find coming from injuries, but for (Payne) to be sitting over there and looking at the game in a different light, that’s going to help him in the long run.”
Another senior that is under the microscope is guard Keith Appling, who talks with Cleaves on a regular basis. After talking about how much change he has seen in Appling between his freshman and senior season, Cleaves said he is letting him know how big the shoes are past guards have left for him to fill.
“I tell him, I said ‘I don’t want to put pressure on you, but it starts and ends with you – a national championship,’” Cleaves said. “There is room at the table … there have been some big guns that have come through (the program) that have done some big things at the point guard position, and I think he’s doing everything I’ve asked of him.”
It wasn’t the most social atmosphere for it to take place, but freshman forward Gavin Schilling reunited with his teammate at Findlay Prep, Indiana guard Stanford Robinson, at Breslin Center Tuesday night.
Schilling said the two continue talk on a regular basis, especially when leading up to the game, but the handshakes after the game only allowed time for a quick “what’s up,” between the former Pilots.
However, the bond between the two goes further than being teammates for their senior year at the high school basketball factory – they were also roommates.
The duo came from the east side of the country, with Schilling living in Chicago and Robinson living in the Washington D.C. area, and that allowed them to make the transition together.
“It was really nice,” Schilling said. “He had to adjust living in Vegas just like I did, and it was really cool living with him.”