Friday, July 10, 2020

All's well between Izzo and Nick Ward after benching against Rutgers

December 8, 2017
Head Coach Tom Izzo speaks during the ceremony unveiling the Tom Izzo Hall of History on Oct. 20, 2017 at the Breslin Center. Attendees included the Board of Trustees, Lou Anna K Simon, Mark Hollis and the Skandalaris family.
Head Coach Tom Izzo speaks during the ceremony unveiling the Tom Izzo Hall of History on Oct. 20, 2017 at the Breslin Center. Attendees included the Board of Trustees, Lou Anna K Simon, Mark Hollis and the Skandalaris family. —
Photo by Carly Geraci | The State News

The No. 3 ranked men's basketball squad saw its streak of sixth straight victories by 18 points or more end after the team's 10-point win over Rutgers Tuesday night.

The more controversial storyline coming out of the game, however, stemmed from MSU's sideline. 

Sophomore forward Nick Ward has started in every game this season and averages around 17 minutes on the floor. Against Rutgers, Ward played a career-low 11 minutes and was on the court in the second half for only one minute and 11 seconds as head coach Tom Izzo opted to go with senior Gavin Schilling.

"I don't mind if a player gets mad at me because I get mad at him," Izzo said after the team's practice on Thursday. 

Not responding well to double teams and not effectively guarding ball screens were the main reasons for why Ward was benched, according to Izzo. While Izzo said Ward has made improvements overall in those areas this season, particularly on defense, he said the sophomore struggled in those areas against Rutgers.

"It was nothing, it was just a, 'Hey come back to Earth and figure out what you've been doing so well and continue to do that because it has been successful for you,"' Izzo said.

Ward, who went 1-of-5 against Rutgers, admitted after practice to not reacting well when he was being double teamed throughout the time he spent on the court.

"The doubles frustrated me but you know it's a compliment. It's a compliment that you have to double team me and face guard me, but you know I just got to move on from it," Ward said. 

Ward did not see the floor in the second half against Rutgers until about 12 minutes in, and after Izzo subbed Ward back out after only for a moment, an animated exchange ensued between the two on the bench.

"Did I push the envelope a little bit? One hundred percent, yes," Izzo said. 

Izzo said he needed to "push the envelope" in regards to benching Ward because of how crucial it was that the team took care of business against Rutgers in its first true road game of the season.

"It's hard to keep guys focused in on what they have to do for a long period of time, and that was game we couldn't lose. We couldn't lose that game," Izzo said.

Despite the dispute, Izzo insinuated that the situation was not as serious as it may have appeared to be and all is well between him and Ward.

"There's been a lot worse incidents for me with Nick," Izzo said. 

As for Ward — who was embraced with a kiss on the forehead by Izzo while he was talking to reporters Thursday night — the sophomore said he looking to leave the incident behind him ahead of the team's next game against Southern Utah.

"Everybody has a bad day and that day was one of those days, and you know, move on from it," Ward said. 

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