Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wants to make sure of one thing as the season goes on: That his team is getting better.
A 72-61 road win on Thursday against a 10-12 Nebraska team that has now lost six of its last seven games might not be the best indicator, but Izzo didn’t look at it that way following the game. He saw a team that overcame a tough road environment, saw balanced scoring with six players scoring at least 9 points, and saw a pair of bigs who battled through the effects of illness.
So let’s get into that a little deeper — here is what Izzo had to say in speaking with Spartan Sports Network’s Will Tieman on the Tom Izzo Postgame Show:
Initial reaction: “I thought we did some real good things, but we did some poor things, too. I don’t know. It’s an interesting team right now. You’ve got to admit we played harder. We didn’t rebound real well (Nebraska rebounded 37.5 percent of its own missed shots), had a few goofy turnovers (15 total).
“But at the same time, we took away a lot of the stuff they did. We did a very good job of making some shots. I don’t know what we ended up shooting: (55.8 percent from the field, 64.7 percent from 3-point range), only 50 (percent) from the line but we were only 3 of 6.
“The problem is I told you the defensive rebounding and turnovers. Again, we didn’t do a great job in that area so we’re going to have to keep working on it. But at the same time, what a great win against a team that’s been playing very good (Nebraska beat then-No. 20 Purdue on Sunday), and just to come off a big win (against Michigan on Sunday) in front of a raucous crowd. So I’m proud of my guys.”
On five players scoring in double figures: “And (freshman Josh) Langford had 9. He played pretty well. We did get a lot of ball out of a lot of guys. We’ve still got to get something out of Eron Harris (3 points). There’s always going to be a negative, because I think to be good, we’ve got to straighten out a couple of these things. But getting five guys in doubles and moving the ball around, I thought there were times we did at the end there.”
On his big men: “Nick Ward and Kenny Goins were so sick. I don’t know if you could tell it — not sick anymore, but just run down from having the flu. They were so tired (that) it was hard for them to get up on those ball screens. I appreciated the way those two guys sucked it up.”
On the preparation: “Give my assistants credit. I think our game plan in the last couple games, we’ve done a great job of moving people around and taking away their strengths. I thought even though (Huskers guard Tai) Webster had 18, I thought we did a pretty good job on him, a great job on (Glynn) Watson. (Center Jordy) Tshimanga tore us a new one (15 points, 9 rebounds), but with Nick and Kenny going through what they were going through, I’m just proud of them for hanging in there with us.”
On the significance of the win: “I’m not as optimistic as you, but I do look at the fact that we’re getting better. And that’s the name of the game: Can we get better? Now we’ve got two more things to work on: those turnovers and those defensive rebounds. We’ve got to shore that up if we’re going to become a real good team. But big step in the right direction. This is a tough place to play. We have not played well here over the last few years against Nebraska, and so to come up with a big win on the road on a big night here, I think, speaks volumes for us.”