With the MSU men’s basketball team preparing for its second matchup with Iowa this season, head coach Tom Izzo didn’t hold back on how he felt about the first meeting — a 72-52 loss in Iowa City.
“I thought that was the worst we played in a couple years,” Izzo said. “Maybe they had something to do with it, but Id’s say that we had a lot to do with it, too.”
When the Spartans (16-12 overall, 8-8 Big Ten) lost to the Hawkeyes (10-18, 3-13), it was the first of two consecutive 20-point losses and was arguably the lowest point of the season for MSU.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, when the two teams meet at Breslin Center on the Spartans’ Senior Day, Izzo said he will get an idea of the pride his players have depending on how they respond in the rematch.
“You kind of find out how your players feel about that,” Izzo said. “If they take it personal, then you come out and play hard and get some things done. But if you don’t, then you’re in trouble.”
Izzo said he expects the Spartans to come out and play much better against Iowa this time around, and his players said they are looking at the game as chance for revenge.
“This is a payback game,” junior forward Draymond Green. “One of the most embarrassing losses of my career. Not just at Michigan State. Period.”
Along with the element of revenge, the Spartans also will be looking to send senior guards Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Mike Kebler out on a winning note.
MSU plays again Saturday at Michigan before moving on to the Big Ten Tournament, but Wednesday will the seniors’ final game in front of the home crowd.
Senior Night festivities will take place after the game, and Lucas said Wednesday is the beginning of an important two games for he and his classmates.
“It’s big for us,” Lucas said. “As far as me being a senior, (Summers) and (Kebler), it’s big for us to win these next two games.”
With the Spartans struggling to score as of late, Lucas said he wants everyone on the team to do whatever it takes to finish the season strong, starting with more time in the gym.
“That’s something me and (Green) decided (Sunday) night and this morning,” Lucas said. “He has the big men and I’ve got the guards. We’re going to start coming in, getting more shots up and I think we’ll get better because guys just have to get their confidence up.”
A win Wednesday would move MSU one step closer to its 14th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, while a loss would make it difficult to get in.
As the Spartans spend extra time working on their shots and preparing for the Hawkeyes, Izzo said he knows the NCAA Tournament is on everyone’s mind. He said players and coaches can’t spend time worrying , but instead simply focusing on getting much-needed wins.
“(The tournament) is something that I think is important to all of them,” Izzo said. “It’s important to me, so I don’t ignore it, but I can’t beat on it either. We have to play better and we have to play with a purpose and we have to play to win. Eventually you have to get wins, and I think this is the time of year when you have to get wins.”