“The process” might be taking longer than it ever has for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
His injury-riddled and freshman-dominated Spartans suffered yet another setback Friday in a 63-58 loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. It marked the first time the Spartans have failed to reach the semis since 2010.
After the loss, Izzo spoke with the media about his disappointment in the performance and his team’s lack of consistent urgency.
On the performance of his freshmen: “It wasn’t like we didn’t care. I just don’t think some of our young guys understand. Miles [Bridges] played OK. We didn’t get much out of Nick [Ward] early. We didn’t get anything out of Cassius [Winston]. We got a lot better second half out of Josh [Langford] than first. I just don’t think they understand yet that it gets ratcheted up. That’s what these games are all about. We tried to warn them. I do give Minnesota a lot of credit. They played hard. They played tough. I mean, we did outrebound them, which is hard for us to do. We’re not that big. We were outrebounding them by 8 or 10 at halftime. We just didn’t make some shots. We missed some layups. They did a better job.”
On whether his players will have a different approach next week: “Well, you hope so. I said it’s been a learning year for me and for them. Maybe it’s my fault because I talked to them about it [Thursday] night. I guarded against this. I know what happens. You win a game. You get back to the hotel. You got an hour, then you’re going to a gym to practice on the next team.
“But that’s what one-and-done time is all about. But they don’t know that. AAU ball, if you lose this game, you probably play another one in a couple hours, right? Then another one tomorrow morning. If you lose that, you play in the afternoon. I think that’s really hurt these kids, personally. I just think too much winning is never valued. It’s not like they on purpose said, ‘We’re not going to play hard.’ They just don’t understand the rise of the level that it takes.”
On his team’s youth impacting the game: “I don’t think it had anything to do with beating them three times. Like I said, we played them so long ago, I feel like we played them last year. In fact, one of the games was last year, 2016. I don’t think it had anything to do with that. It wasn’t like they ran all over us. It seemed like we just couldn’t get through that you just got to play harder. Man, I got great kids. I got the greatest kids. I’m going to have to live with it. It’s part of the process. I hate the process, but it is part of the process.”
On why his team lost: “We lost because we just didn’t bring it early. I was disappointed. There haven’t been many times, guys, that I’ve been disappointed in this team this year. [Friday] was one of them. I’m disappointed in myself. I must not have done a good enough job [Thursday] night. We got beat by a team that’s probably a little better than us, but it would be interesting to see how [Minnesota coach] Richard [Pitino] thought they played. They shot [41.2 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from 3]. We outrebounded them. I’m not sure he’s tickled to death.
“But they found a way to win. Those juniors and seniors did a better job of finding a way to win. We just didn’t do as good a job. That could be in coaching some. Seriously, I got to do a better job. I just felt like our players did not realize, you know, the sense of urgency is needed for 40 minutes when you play in one-and-done time. It’s such a unique thing to do. So maybe this helps us. Maybe we’ll do a better job if we get to play again in a tournament.”