December 4, 2010

Lucas opts out, Green carries tired Spartans

EAST LANSING - On another day, at a different part of the year, Tom Izzo might have been fuming about his Spartans having another messy day of turnovers. But on this occasion, Izzo blamed himself.

"I have learned one thing, that I might be the dumbest scheduler in America," Izzo said after the Spartans' 74-39 victory over Bowling Green, Saturday afternoon at Breslin Center. "My team is tired. It's not an excuse.

"We came out in warm-up and I guess we shot well, but everybody was talking about how there was no energy. It was an easy team to coach. They were just tired.

"Somebody is going to read into that and think it's a big freaking excuse, and it's not. I'm pretty good at getting on my guys when I need to, but this one falls on me, not them."

Saturday marked Michigan State's sixth game in 13 days, with a trip to and from Maui mixed in, then a trip to and from Durham, N.C. for a red-letter game against No. 1 ranked Duke. Monday, MSU will travel to New York City to face Top 10 Syracuse on Tuesday.

"I look back at the travel and it has been brutal," Izzo said. "I am definitely meeting with my A.D. to try to figure out how I can do a better job."

Senior point guard Kalin Lucas felt it the most. Still struggling to regain full speed while coming back from Achilles tendon surgery in March, Lucas's tank ran empty on Saturday. Lucas played only 3 minutes in the second half, and just 15 for the game.

"The poor guy is drained," Izzo said. "He asked not to play in the second half unless we needed him. He was just kind of wiped out.

"It think he was just mentally drained and a little physically sore. That's from going three games in Maui, and then playing 36 minutes almost straight at Duke. I deserve blame for that.

"This is where you can tell it's not a lack of conditioning because he has conditioned as well as he can," Izzo said. "It's not a lack of effort. He just couldn't. When he accelerated, his wheels were spinning like a car in the U.P. He just wasn't going. He was smart enough, and unselfish enough not to play unless we needed him."

What Happened

The Spartans struggled in the first half against Bowling Green's pseudu Syracuse 2-3 zone. MSU shot just 29 percent and committing 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes against the Falcons, who are coached by former Syracuse Orangemen star Louis Orr.

Lucas came to the bench early in the second half as the Spartans nursed a slim 25-23 lead.

That's when Izzo sent the offense through Draymond Green.

Izzo called for Green to flash to the foul line area, and then make inside-out passes to the wing. Green found Durrell Summers in the corner for 3-pointer (28-23).

Then he fed Korie Lucious on the other side for 3-pointer (31-23).

Then Keith Appling got loose for a 3-pointer (34-23).

Then Green scored on a put-back (36-23), then fed Appling in the right corner for another 3 (39-24).

The 21-1 run began and ended with a Summers 3-pointer. The six-minute binge created a 46-24 lead, and the luxury of resting Lucas for the rest of the game.

"We we got him (Green) the ball in the middle of that thing in the second half, I thought he did a great job of picking it apart," Izzo said. "That was a big positive."

Inside The Box Score

Summers led MSU with 14 points (4-of-12 shooting).

"I was a little disappointed in Durrell," Izzo said. "I don't think he was looking for his shot. In the second half I thought he looked for his shot a lot more."


[DB]Delvon Roe[/db] had 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Appling had 11 points, 3 assists and 1 turnover in 25 minutes of playing time.

"I thought Appling and Adreian Payne played pretty well. I thought Appling had some very good moments."

With Lucas out, Appling played several minutes at point guard for the second time in his college career.

"Whjen he went to the point, he pushed the ball very good and made a couple of real good passes," Izzo said. "That was a definite positive."


More Izzo:

"Austin Thornton (9 points, 6 rebounds) played a little better. Korie Lucious (8 points, 6 assists) has been playing pretty well.

"Rebounding was a positive. Our defense actually was a positive. We shot pretty well from the 3 (12-of-28 for 42.9 percent) after the beginning. In the beginning, we got some good shots we just missed them.

"We would play defense for 30 seconds and then come down and turn it over. Bowling Green had something to do with that."

What Really Happened

  • Izzo's immense respect and appreciate for Draymond Green grew.

    Green was in the starting lineup on Wednesday night at Duke, but he was the first man off the bench during MSU's runs to the 2009 and 2010 Final Fours.

    Izzo called Green into his office on Friday to discuss moving Green semi-permanently back to the sixth man role. Green was already thinking the same thing.

    "As I called him in, he said, 'You know what? I was going to call you,'" Izzo said. "We talk about it, about Morris Peterson and Kelvin Torbert and different guys through the years (that have been the sixth man at MSU), but it really does take a man to do it," Izzo said.

    "DayDay and I spent a lot of time yesterday, some with my staff, some just me and him, and figured some things out.

    "One of the things is playing him at the three, we can't run the offense through him as much."

    Green split his time at small forward (the three) and power forward (the four) through most of October and November. He played exclusively at the four against Bowling Green.

    But MSU utilizes the four as more of a face-the-basket passer with Green than in years past.

    "He is not a forward, and not a center and not a guard," Izzo said. "He's a hybrid. That's what I'm going to start calling him and I think he's the best hybrid in America. And I'm going to play him at the sixth man because that's what's best for our team and he is man enough to handle it."

    He's certainly skilled enough to handle the rock, as a long-range shooter, a dribble-drive passer, or as a high-post facilitator, as he was on Saturday against Bowling Green.

    "Even when he was a freshman in '09 during our run in the NCAA Tournament, we ran our offense through him and Goran Suton. Last year we definitely ran our offense through him."

    There is a stigma in being a sixth man. It usually means the player isn't quite good enough to start. But that's not the case at all with MSU and Green, and Izzo wants that point made perfectly clear.

    "You could see who the best player on the court was," Izzo said. "Draymond Green might be the best sixth man in the world. I don't know if he wanted to be compared to (former Boston Celtics great) Hondo Havlicek, but I know he is the best I've seen."

    Green finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He was an untidy 1-of-6 as a shooter in the first half, but changed helmets and became a quarterback in the second.

  • In settling on Green as the sixth man, Izzo says he has a better handle on putting together a regular rotation.

    "I feel a little better (about it)," Izzo said.

  • MSU got a chance to> run its zone offenses against a fairly solid Bowling Green 2-3 zone, just three days before heading to New York to face Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Some worked. Some didn't. Once they found the groove with Green facilitating through the high post, the Spartans kept going to it.

    "I think it helps to have (played) a zone but maybe now they (Syracuse) will scout us better," Izzo said. "That will help, but it will be a lot bigger zone that we face in New York and we will have to play a lot better."

  • Adreian Payne was active, with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 15 minutes.

    "He is getting better," Izzo said of the 6-foot-10 freshman. "He has had two better games in a row. He made some incredible blocks and he ran the court pretty well. I was pleased in his performance."

    In Payne, Izzo has a classic case of a freshman who is in the process of learning that he has to play harder. But he is a quick study.

    "Yeah, like when he jogs on his cut in the zone (offense) and then you tell him and he picks it up and then dunks one from I don't know where.

    "But you can see that there is a lot of talent there. He is being very coachable and receptive. It's just going to take some time. He just doesn't understand that there is another level, another gear you have to play at. He needs a fourth gear and he only has three gears right now. We are going to get him an overhaul."

  • Sophomore Derrick Nix played just five minutes and is battling a sickness, Izzo said.

  • BGSU had occasional success trapping Spartans on the baseline, and altering passes in the first half. However, some of the turnovers were just plain odd, isolated incidents. But 21 giveaways is too many against a 1-7 Bowling Green team.

    "We have to take care of the ball better, but that is going to be an ongoing story," Izzo said. "When we went to the high post (in the first half) our bigs were supposed to be moving but I thought there was a lot of standing."

    Izzo said the Spartans haven't had a chance to work on their zone offense much this year.

    "I think I have to take some blame for that and will," Izzo said. "We'll try to address it if we can get some practice time.

    We just have to get rejuvenated. It's not going to be easy because we don't have any time to do that. The second half was much better than the first half and that's what we will try to build on."

  • MSU's transition game is behind schedule, on the year.

    "Our fast break today was better," Izzo said. "We worked hard on it the last two days. Then we had different lineups in and we had three guys in one lane and didn't have very good spacing."

    And it won't get totally up to speed until Lucas is back in high gear.

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