Michigan State finished with a season-low eight turnovers on Saturday, and yet a turnover weighed on Spartans coach Tom Izzo’s mind more than any other play following a 63-60 road loss at Maryland.
Rather than Maryland guard Melo Trimble’s game-winning 3-pointer, Izzo focused on the play that preceded it when speaking with on the Spartan Sports Network.
Freshman big man Nick Ward, who finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds, had a chance to make it 26 but had a post-entry pass slip through his hands. Had he caught it, he may have gotten a go-ahead shot up before the shot clock expired.
Here’s what an upset Izzo had to say to radio hosts Will Tieman and Matt Steigenga following the loss.
Initial reaction: “We had our chances, as you know. I thought we played hard in one of the tougher environments we’ve played in. Some critical calls, some critical things that happened late in the game. We just kept battling. It’s hard to feel good when you miss layups and easy shots, and it’s hard to feel bad when your team gave you everything they could give you.
“You play three games in six days, and they still did what they did. I’m as proud of my team as I’ve been, Will. It’s just discouraging to lose a game like this that I think we played well enough to win. We set up a great play and got Nick the ball, and poor Nick, after having 22 and 16 boards, the ball went through his hands. Nothing bad. It was a great pass from (freshman point guard Cassius Winston). Just the way it happened.”
On the offensive performance: “We shot well enough from the field, even though it was 38 percent. Let me rephrase that. We got good enough shots. We just missed about 4-5 layups. You make those layups, and all of a sudden — our goal was to get 60 shots, and we got 60 shots. We got enough good ones. We just missed some. We had some guys that just didn’t play as well early, and then they bounced back.
“Again, the youth showed, and the veteran from Maryland showed. Those two things were evident. They had a guy to go to, and they went to Trimble time and time again, and he made other people better. We just struggled in that area. Again, I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of my team.”
On how battle-tested his team is going into the Big Ten Tournament: “Who knows? I’m gonna worry about that later. I don’t want to talk about that now. Sorry, but I have no interest in it. I just have an interest in maybe spending some time with my guys, and then tomorrow, I’ll worry about my future. I don’t know who we play, when we play, where we play. I really don’t give a damn right now.
“I really just care about a lot of hurt guys in that locker room. It’s one of those times when it’s hard to say much. You feel for them, and you’re proud of them, and that’s the way I’m going to remain here until I get home.”
On Nick Ward’s 6-for-7 free-throw shooting: “He’s made improvements on that end. He still struggles on the other end, but he’s made improvements. That’s why it’s a shame having that good a game to have that ball go through his hands at the end. I’m proud of Nick. He’s made such improvements since that Michigan game, and you always love when people get benched or they do this or they do that and they respond. I’ve got to admit Nick has responded as well as any player I’ve had this year.
“(Freshman forward) Miles (Bridges) still played awfully well, made some big-time shots (finishing with 18 points). Cassius played pretty well (8 points, 5 assists). We had a lot of guys that did their job. We just played against a good team in a tough environment, and it wasn’t quite good enough.”
Though Izzo didn’t want to talk about the Big Ten Tournament, he felt comfortable looking past that in his postgame press conference and advocating for his team to be included in the NCAA Tournament field.
Izzo on MSU's NCAA hopes: "We're a good enough team to be in that tournament but I'm prejudiced. They deserve to be in it."
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) March 4, 2017