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Izzo talks Tuesday showdown with No. 14 Indiana, containing Trayce Jackson-Davis

February 20, 2023
<p>Head Coach Tom Izzo during Michigan State’s game against Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Crisler Center. The game was MSU’s first back after the mass shooting on Feb. 13. The Wolverines ultimately beat the Spartans, 84-72.</p>

Head Coach Tom Izzo during Michigan State’s game against Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Crisler Center. The game was MSU’s first back after the mass shooting on Feb. 13. The Wolverines ultimately beat the Spartans, 84-72.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Ahead of Tuesday’s showdown against No. 14 Indiana, Michigan State Men's Basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo spoke with the media to discuss the matchup. The Hoosiers have won four of their last five contests and currently sit in third place in the Big Ten standings. 

With just four games remaining in the 2022-2023 regular season, the Spartans look to rebound from an 84-72 loss to Michigan on Saturday night, the team's first game following the mass shooting on campus.

“I don’t want to be taken off the hook for anything,” Izzo said. “We played well enough to win that game and didn’t do it.”

Izzo and the Spartans have another rapid turnaround in conference play as they look ahead to Indiana. The Hoosiers boast an impressive 10-6 record in the Big Ten, considering their injury-riddled slump in early January. 

MSU’s unquestionably biggest threat is Indiana senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who tallied 31 points and 15 rebounds when the two met last month. Izzo had high praise for Jackson-Davis and his career progression. 

“I think he’s added different dimensions to his game,” Izzo said. “He’s got as good a first step as any player at any position.”

Having previously beaten MSU 82-69 almost singlehandedly by Jackson-Davis, Indiana will likely see a more diverse blend of matchups and coverages, Izzo said.

“We’re going to have to mix some things up,” Izzo said. “I don’t think there’ll be a steady diet of anything.”

Controlling the inside has been MSU’s biggest on-court challenge thus far, which doesn’t bode well for Tuesday’s matchup with one of the nation’s premier big men. Down the stretch throughout conference play, especially Saturday, the Spartans have struggled to grab timely rebounds and defend the paint.

“Rebounding is not a strength of this team,” Izzo said. “I think [Indiana] got 12 or 15 offensive rebounds against Illinois. One of the battle cries is balancing that rebounding.”

If MSU wants to tame Jackson-Davis and company, it must be by committee. An increased role for freshman center Carson Cooper and freshman forward Jaxon Kohler is much needed if the Spartans want to limit him and the Hoosier frontcourt. 

“I think you’re gonna see Jaxon in a little more,” Izzo said. “Maybe even playing Carson and Jaxon together.”

A critical characteristic of Indiana’s triumph over MSU last month was the Hoosiers’ nine three-pointers on 60% shooting from behind the arc. 

While MSU rushed to contain Jackson-Davis, sophomore guard Tamar Bates drained five out of six triples, with junior guard Trey Galloway knocking down all three of his attempts from deep. 

Heading into Tuesday’s contest, the Spartans will search for answers to Indiana’s inside-out prowess. 

“Trayce is going to get his 20 points,” Izzo said. “He gets enough touches, he gets enough opportunities, and he’s a phenomenal player. So, the game plan won’t be just to stop Trayce.”

After missing more than four games in January, Indiana redshirt senior forward Race Thompson returned against MSU in Assembly Hall and enters Tuesday with consecutive double-digit showings. The absence of Thompson was undoubtedly a catalyst in the Hoosiers’ three-game slide at the beginning of 2023. 

The Spartans will also have to deal with freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who Izzo said has made considerable progress since the teams last met. Hood-Schifino has stepped up in the absence of senior guard Xavier Johnson, who broke his foot back in December. Izzo called Thompson and Hood-Schifino “valuable” assets to the red-hot Hoosier squad.

“I think they’ve got a couple of role players that play their roles to the ‘nth’ degree,” Izzo said.

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