Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo added fuel to the Michigan - MSU rivalry with his postgame comments that sophomore guard Darius Morris might have deserved a ball thrown at Morris' face by MSU point guard Kalin Lucas after the final buzzer Saturday. Morris responded Tuesday by insisting he hadn't said a word during U-M's 70-63 victory over the Spartans, saying he reserved it until after the Wolverines won.
Izzo also insinuated Morris was running up the score with his lay-up with three seconds left. Morris responded to that as well, noting he learned a lesson from a previous game with Penn State in which he pulled up and was fouled with 10 seconds left rather than icing the game with a breakaway lay-up. He missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Nittany Lions a glimmer of hope.
Two Spartans ran at Morris in what appeared to be attempts to foul him on the last play Saturday, but he evaded both.
"That's exactly right," he said of the Penn State comparison. "If I recall right, we were only up by four or five. Their players were running at me, and at first I thought they were going to foul me, but then I saw them reaching at the ball. I avoided two and remembered what coach said … whenever there's time on the clock, you've got to score, especially against a dangerous team like Michigan State.
"You never know what can happen. So just to be safe, I went in there and scored that lay-up. But it's kind of hard to dribble the ball out when they're just running at you full speed trying to rip the ball from you."
That said, Morris didn't fault Izzo for his comments. He just didn't agree with them.
"I think it was just an emotional statement coming from a coach that takes a lot of pride in every game he coaches in," said Morris. "I have tremendous respect for him. He's a great coach. I admire him.
"At the same time, his comments about me talking trash that whole game were false. If you watch the film, I hadn't talked any trash, although several [MSU] players directed some comments at me during the game. The only time I talked trash was after the buzzer sounded off. For him to say I was yapping the whole game was incorrect.
"And then [saying I was] yapping at his place … the only reason I started yapping was because their players started talking to me. I was just showing my teammates we weren't going to back down."
It's all part of the game, Morris continued.
"It was happening last year, too, when they were beating us by 50 and throwing lobs," he said. "I didn't really hear too much complaining about it, or you didn't hear Coach [John] Beilein talking about it. But it's a rivalry game, and that's what makes these games rivalries. People might have forgotten it, or people are being a little too nice. I know I'm from L.A., but there's just something about me and Michigan State - and I'm pretty sure a lot of Michigan fans feel the same way. I just bring that passion out there on the court.
"It might be a little out of my character, but sometimes you've just go to do that for the rest of the team and just for what the program is all about, showing we're going to be strong and not going to back down from anybody."