For Izzo and MSU, Elite Eight showdown with UConn awaits


NEW YORK — Gary Harris doesn’t remember much from his first college game.

October 9, 2012 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany against Connecticut, a disappointing 66-62 loss for the Spartans.

“We started a couple freshmen that game, and Gary (Harris) was one of them,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “He had the proverbial deer in the headlights look. I remember he forgot the first three plays we were going to run. Kevin (Ollie’s) teams are going to play hard and play well disciplined.”

The two teams will again face off with much more on the line at 2:20 p.m. tomorrow at Madison Square Garden.

Izzo said MSU is going from facing a team in Virginia with some of the biggest and physical guards, to one with a couple of the quickest.

Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright both average more than ten points and 30 minutes, and are one of the most senior backcourts in the country.

Napier scored 24 and 25 points in Connecticut’s first two games of the NCAA Tournament to get them past St. Jospeh’s in overtime, followed by a win over No. 2 seed Villanova.

“They have two great guards on the perimeter that we’re going to have to just try and contain as much as we possibly can,” senior guard Keith Appling said. “(We have to ) just try to remain solid for 40 minutes and see what happens.”

While the the guards are the guys who put on a show, the big men are the ones who get all the dough.

Against Iowa State Friday night, DeAndre Daniels scored 27 points, and also grabbed 10 rebounds.

Daniels and German forward Niels Giffey lead the charge under the basket in both points and rebounds.

“Their big guys impressed me,” Izzo said. “When you take a kid like Daniels, who has an incredible, incredible night, doing it inside and outside, we got our work cut out for us. That’s why we’re in the Elite Eight.”

Madison Square Garden has long been a place where the Huskies have felt comfortable.

They played their first NCAA Tournament game at MSG in 1951, and more recently went on a run in the Big East Tournament in 2011 that would lead to a national championship.

The game tomorrow has a lot riding on it for Izzo — including the streak that every four-year senior coached by him has made it to a Final Four.

Izzo is just excited to compete.

“Fear drives us all,” he said. “If they didn’t like pressure, they picked the wrong school to come to. Those streaks mean that the players before you lived up to the standards that the players before them had, and that’s part of your obligation when you come here.” 

Click here to see a video preview of the game. 

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