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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Izzo has Spartans back to basics

Last season Michigan State coach Tom Izzo relied on talent and experience to carry his team. It didn't work. This year, the Spartans have gone back to the style of play that made them a mainstay among college basketball's elite and gave Izzo the reputation of being a rebounding and defensive genius.
Michigan State's most recent 72-40 victory at Eastern Michigan Sunday, its fourth in a row, wasn't easy to watch. Yet, it was identifiably Spartan basketball. MSU out rebounded the Eagles by 20 and held them to 28.6 percent shooting from the floor. EMU had just 13 points at halftime (sure MSU had just 25, but that's the formula that works in East Lansing and in the Big Ten).
Michigan State (4-2) has out rebounded all six of its opponents this season and is doing so by an average of 11.6 boards per game. Izzo's club is also making up for a lack of offensive ability by crashing the offensive glass -- another Spartan trademark.
Senior Draymond Green is leading the rebounding effort, averaging 10.8 per game. It's also no coincidence he's leading MSU in scoring with an average of 12.4 points.
Scoring, or the lack of it, is an issue but it won't derail the Spartans' chances of making an impact both in the Big Ten and in the NCAA tournament this season. MSU had plenty of offense last year, but without the defensive effort or team commitment, it got the Spartans only as far as a 19-15 record and a first-round exit in the NCAA tournament.
The points will start to come for MSU. Sophomore point guard Keith Appling will need to start looking to score and transfer shooting guard Brandon Wood needs to find his shooting touch.
By the time Big Ten play begins Dec. 28 at home against Indiana, I think both will.
Appling's offensive ability is well known. He set the MHSAA scoring record for a state championship game with his 49 point performance as a senior at Detroit Pershing. I've seen Brandon Wood play twice in person when he was at Valparaiso. Both times he scored over 30 points. He doesn't look comfortable in the MSU starting lineup just yet, but make no mistake, he can score. Freshman Brandon Dawson is another player who looks trigger shy offensively right now, but he too has a lot to offer on the offensive end.
What matters most for the Spartans is that the defense, rebounding and team chemistry look strong so far.
The Spartans don't have the depth or talent they had a year ago, but they're back to doing the dirty work that gave the program its identity during Izzo's 17-year tenure as the head coach in East Lansing.


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