Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Izzo, players say the team is 'growing up' and finding ways to win

March 14, 2015
<p>Senior forward/guard Branden Dawson prepares for a rebound over Maryland freshman forward Michal Cekovsky Mar. 14, 2015, during the game against Maryland at the Big Ten Tournament at United Center in Chicago. The Spartans defeated the Terrapins, 62-58. Kelsey Feldpausch/The State News
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Senior forward/guard Branden Dawson prepares for a rebound over Maryland freshman forward Michal Cekovsky Mar. 14, 2015, during the game against Maryland at the Big Ten Tournament at United Center in Chicago. The Spartans defeated the Terrapins, 62-58. Kelsey Feldpausch/The State News

Photo by Kelsey Feldpausch | The State News

Chicago — MSU's season was summarized in just a few words from head coach Tom Izzo following his team's 62-58 victory.

"Well, we don't make it easy, I can promise you that," Izzo said.

MSU's most disappointing losses have been defined by crunch time meltdowns. Most recently in the regular season finale, the Spartans seemingly did all they could to lose at Indiana. On the heels of two games of just the opposite, MSU is showing growth at just the right time of year.

Leading by as many as 16 points in the first and 17 points in the second half in Friday’s tournament opener against Ohio State, MSU squandered away double-digit leads time and time again. Today against Maryland, the Spartans trailed by as many 16 points in the first half.

The common denominator in both games? An MSU victory.

After struggling for much of the year in close games and appearing to look for ways to lose, the Spartans have turned it around. Whether it has faced a deficit or held a lead of its own, the team has found a way to come out on top.

“It just shows that we’re growing,” junior guard Denzel Valentine said. “Guys are really stepping up and being seniors and being upperclassmen. Trav and BJ did a great job at the end of the game. Gavin hit some free throws, so did Tum. We’re just all growing up.”

In the game’s final three minutes, MSU made 7-of-10 free throws. Included in that statistic is a pair of makes from senior forward Branden Dawson, a 47 percent free throw shooter.

After a turnover from junior forward Matt Costello at the 11:08 mark, the Spartans didn’t hand the ball over the rest of the half. In the second half in its entirety, MSU turned it over just twice.

“I think we’re just banding together, locking down, and focusing in,” senior guard Travis Trice said. “If we had this type of game earlier in the season, we’d probably find a way to lose, whether it’s turning the ball over or free throws or something like that. I just think it speaks to the maturity of our team now.”

Today’s resolute victory began with a halftime message through which head coach Tom Izzo challenged his team. In the post game press conference, Trices said that Izzo laid down the law bluntly.

“Coach came in and said either you’re going to get the job done or I’m not going to play you,” Trice said.

It resonated throughout the team and led to yet another grind it out MSU victory. It wasn’t the first time that the Spartans have had a halftime during which Izzo called out his players but it was a prime example of answering their coach’s call.

“This time we really took it upon ourselves to respond and you know we made plays,” Valentine said.

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