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Spartans enjoy weeklong break

February 12, 2009

The MSU men’s basketball team’s side of the Berkowitz Basketball Complex was completely quiet earlier this week, as the No. 9 Spartans (20-4 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) were forced into shutdown mode by MSU head coach Tom Izzo.

“The greatest thing would be Wednesday this place will be off limits to every human being that’s involved in this basketball program,” Izzo said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “(This season has) been a grind.”

The Spartans’ 54-42 win over Michigan on Tuesday ended a streak of five games in 13 days, a brutal stretch in the middle of the rough-and-tumble Big Ten season. Now the Spartans embark on an entirely different stretch — an entire week off before their next game, which tips off at 7 p.m. Tuesday against No. 20 Purdue (18-6, 7-4) in West Lafayette, Ind.

The whole Big Ten season has dragged on for Izzo, who repeatedly said Monday he couldn’t believe his team was just a little more than halfway through the conference slate.

This year, the Big Ten season began on Dec. 30, with the Spartans opening up the next day against Minnesota. While the beginning of this season was just a week earlier than in previous years, an earlier start coupled with various injuries means this break has come at the perfect time, Izzo said.

“We need to get really healthy and really refreshed during (this) time and do our job … and prepare for Purdue,” Izzo said. “I’d say getting healthy the best we can and getting refreshed (are our main goals). I think this time of year everyone’s a little worn out and you’ve got to get that wind back for the last (six) games.”

Between the knee surgeries on freshman forward Delvon Roe (preseason) and senior center Goran Suton (November and December), the Spartans have been on the mend since the get-go.

With junior forward Raymar Morgan missing the last three games with mononucleosis, Izzo said his top five guys have rarely been on the floor with one another during practice.

Although players such as sophomore guard Durrell Summers and freshman forward Draymond Green have stepped up in Morgan’s absence, senior guard Travis Walton said Morgan’s sickness has given others more playing time, but there’s no question as to what Morgan brings to the team.

“I think we’re growing, but it’s still hard to make up for all the things he does do,” Walton said. “I think we’re getting better playing without him, but when he comes back it’s going to make us that much better because he does so many different things that sometimes don’t come up on the stat sheet.”

While the break should improve the health of Morgan and the team as a whole, Izzo isn’t sure what the break will mean as far as preparation for Purdue, the Big Ten preseason favorite is currently in a three-way tie for second place. The truth is, Izzo said, no one knows for sure whether a long break helps or hurts teams — it all depends on the result.

“We’re just like you guys — we’re insane too,” Izzo said. “If you win because you had a week off, it’s because you had a week off. If you lose and you had a week off, it’s because you had a week off.”

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