East Lansing, MI
The #14 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the season improve to 10-3 with a rim-rattling blow-out win over Western Michigan. The Spartans took out the Broncos with a 95-62 beat down.
The Spartans had four players score in double-digits. They were led by Foster Loyer who got the start for an injured Cassius Winston. Loyer had 16 points, three rebounds, and six assists. Xavier Tillman had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Aaron Henry had 15 points and Kyle Ahrens rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12.
Tom Izzo said of the contest, “Let's start out with the good things. The crowd was unbelievable. You get there early, and you go out there like I do, and that place was filled up and the way it was. I just want to thank all those people. A lot of people came back from a lot of places and this was as good as it ever is and it's one thing I do love about the holiday. People show up and they show up early, I really appreciated that.”
Izzo added, “I thought we had a couple of guys that had unbelievable performances. I thought Aaron Henry, we're really taking some steps now the last couple of games, last couple practices. He's taking some steps forward. I thought Xavier Tillman, we wanted to go into him. They did a pretty good job doubling him, but we did get the ball into him some and when we did, he scored. Marcus (Bingham) was okay, he was okay, and Foster played very well. Both my point guards struggled on the defensive end but on the offensive end he played well, and Jack (Hoiberg) gave us a lift in that little bit of time. That was only the second day that Rocket has practiced in the last three weeks, so I was pleased with what he did, you know the five assists, we're trying to tell him to drive the ball a little bit more and I think Foster has six assists, and Rocket has five and Aaron Henry has five.”
Izzo wasn’t done. He also said, “I think that's really good, but I got to tell you I was very, very, very disappointed in the last five minutes of that game and you say, why? See we got some bigs, we're very young and those bigs have got to play and we're going to go up against one of the biggest teams in the conference next game, so I made a big point in talking about how they have to be physical, run up and down. That was embarrassing the way they ran us to death. I think they made eight of their last 11 baskets. They hit 3-3 three's, I think they had dunks and I'm not even going to name them but I'm going to tell you that it's going to be a bad day tomorrow for those bigs because I am totally disappointed in them and when I say it that strongly publicly, I mean it and opportunities to play, I've been a walk-on, I know what it's like. You get an opportunity, you better take the most of that opportunity so it's not that it's just the end of the game and you're up 25 you know everybody should be able to relax. You should be able to relax. I didn't say one word about one shot. We're jogging up and down the floor and they're going by us dunking, we're not picking up guys or talking and their bigs took ours to the cleaners inside. That is going to end tomorrow, so I look at Christmas as the most important time of the year for me to get my team better. I do think we made some great progress. We had three very good practices. We probably played 30-some minutes of damn good basketball considering the thing we went through.”
But despite the blow out win, Izzo was on a roll. He addressed the injury to Cassius Winston and much more saying, “Again Cassius's thing, so you all know is, it really was a today decision. It wasn't anything we were hiding. He was in practice two days ago and he just kind of dribbled, stopped and his knee kind of went like this and he's got a bone bruise there. There's nothing structurally wrong, he probably could have 80% played. I just had to make a decision that I had to make, and I made it but it was good for him to be on the bench and he kind of realized some things that we're complaining about and why we're complaining about them. I'm hoping he'll be ready to practice tomorrow. I'm hoping he'll be ready to go. I don't even know what day it is, the Illinois game, Thursday. I can't say I know everything on that except it's nothing that we're concerned about for any long-range and I think he would have probably played tonight if I would have let him. I just felt like it wasn't in our best interest and it wasn't in his best interest. A little rest is going to do him good so other than that Kyle Ahrens shot the ball a little better, that was encouraging. Gabe was okay, okay. We shot pretty well from the free-throw line. We rebounded pretty well, got to the offensive glass a little bit then we just started throwing balls at the rim so that part was disappointing. Turnovers was phenomenal, I think we had three at halftime and I think we had six until the last couple minutes. It's just the lack of understanding that which should probably be this way because when you're a freshman or sophomore you have no clue of what's going on and I've got to do a better job of coaching, my assistants got to do a better job coaching. They've got to understand that sometimes you play games and you give guys opportunities because you know what's coming down the road. It was explained to them, I just didn't think we handled it very well so whatever questions you have I'll answer.”
The men in green won the battle of the boards 46-24 and the Spartans had and a refreshingly low nine turnovers. The Spartan defense held WMU to 42% shooting from the field and an abysmal 27% from three.
The Spartans had the lead for 35:41 of the 40 minutes in the game. In all Tom Izzo played all 14 available players. 10 of them scored.
WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said of the game, “Yeah, it's a really good basketball team we ran into. They're right there when they shoot the basketball as well as they did tonight. That makes them even that much more difficult to guard. 28 assists on 32 buckets; that's pretty special. They move the ball so well. And without Cassius (Winston), you know Cassius (Winston) is so good, but he's also really good with the ball. They're a different team, I wouldn't necessarily call them better, but they're a different team when Cassius (Winston) isn't in. And the ball got shared well tonight. They really move the ball well and had us playing behind the majority of the night defensively. So, I thought that was a big thing. Transition defense, that's going to be the way it is no matter who these guys play against. But, just a really good basketball team, can't say enough about them.”
Izzo’s men continued their habit of being unselfish. They had 28 assists on 32 baskets. The Spartans shot 37% from three, 49% from the field and a decent 81% from the charity stripe.
If you are unfamiliar with WMU Coach Hawkins, he has a unique story. He got into coaching after once working for the legend John Wooden. Spartan Nation asked him for that story.
Hawkins said, “Coach (John) Wooden. I grew up in Southern California. Gosh, the short version, I grew up in Southern California and went to his camp as a kid, and then later on as I was starting to get into coaching became a counselor at his camp which is kind of like an assistant coach. After a couple of years, got moved up to the head counselor which is basically the assistant director of the camp. And it remained that way for the better part of a decade. So, the big perk there, and this is what it really comes down to, and the big perk there was I got to pick up Coach Wooden every morning and take him home every afternoon as well as running the camp. It was a half-hour drive each way and so you get to spend that much time, you get to hear all the questions and answers that was asked of Coach Wooden. So, it's like it Yoda in the back seat. And there's always reporters or coaches or whatever, and so you get to hear all those questions and all those answers so it's a tremendous education. You know I'm sure by the time I hit 94 I'm gonna need some of those words coming back to me, but a really special time in my life.”
The team will return to the hard-court Thursday, January 2, 2020, at the Breslin Center in a return to Big Ten action against Illinois. That game can be seen on FS1 at 8:00 PM.
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