“We Are the Top Dog,” Spartans Beat Rival Michigan 57-56 in Ann Arbor

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Crisler Arena

Ann Arbor, MI

 

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The Spartans came into Crisler Arena tonight looking to fulfill something Izzo calls on his team to do each year: “Leave a Footprint.” He wants them to leave a mark. Something that when they return to MSU long past their playing days others will talk about it.

 

Ideally those are national championships and for the 2009-2010 team that is still a possibility. For now, they wanted to secure the greatest start ever in Big Ten play for the Spartans. The previous Spartan record was 7-0, they tied it, but that isn’t a footprint. With a win here they would HAVE the record and that was what they wanted. The idea that it could come against their arch and bitter rival Michigan only would make it even better. They got it.

 

How they got it is the story as the Spartans had 18 turnovers. Again they plagued the Spartans and against better teams WILL cost them games this year. UM isn’t better and when they stopped playing basketball and played more like a group of guys on the play ground you knew this was not going to go their way.

 

UM had an amazing four turnovers, a +14 against the Spartans which should have easily been a victory had they not shot threes from all over the court and passed up open lanes to the basket for threes. Some from so far away that someone suggested they would be fours. They shot an abysmal 32% for the game. With that said, the Spartans turnovers kept them in the game.

 

Tom Izzo reflected on his team’s lack of execution after the game, “We are not as sharp as we need to be.” As usual, he’s right.

 

But here in Ann Arbor it isn’t doom and gloom. For the second straight game the Spartans got a huge Big Ten road win and in the last seconds. Derrick Nix who is from Detroit was his usually fired up self after the game, “People got to stop looking at us as the underdog, we are the top dog.” Tonight they were and looking at the Big Ten standings and national rankings he is correct.

 

Durrell Summers had a great performance, he had a double double with ten points and a matching ten boards. For the second straight game senior Raymar Morgan played like the powerhouse NBA prospect he was projected to be coming out of high school. He had 20 points to go along with eight boards and at times stifling defense. Both of those men were great, but they weren’t the Spartans MVP.

 

Kalin Lucas who is without a doubt the teams best player and captain gets that title. He entered the huddle screaming at his teammates and as Izzo called it, “Coaching.” He told me in the locker room when I asked what he said, “I can’t say that on camera.” Izzo described it joyfully as, “I have never heard him so vocal, for his growth and our team that is essential.”

 

With all of the great efforts there was one that was easy to miss. It won’t stand out in the stat line, but as my buddy Nick Butler said, “It was great.” Chris Allen stifled Manny Harris. Harris still had 16 points, but Chris Allen made him work hard for it and Allen’s defense was superb. Not all of those points were against Allen. Eight of them came against other defenders and fast breaks. 

 

Izzo praised his star, “That speaks a lot and I think he’s happy.” The Spartan Nation should be. Last season Allen lost minutes because he wouldn’t guard anyone and now he is the apple of Izzo’s eye with is his shutdown pressure.

 

All in all the Spartans beat their rival on their court, keep their winning streak in place at 8-0 in the Big Ten and move their overall record to 18-3. Their next game is Saturday at the Breslin against Northwestern.

 

 

Funny Note:

The Wolverines have made an effort for their own smaller version of the Izzone. It is called the Maize Rage. One student had a sign Every Spartan Pleads Not guilty. Hopefully you picked up on the acronym.

 

 

Good News:

Dion Sims when the football season ended joined the MSU basketball team. He has missed practices and games recently sick. He dressed this evening and after the game I asked him about his illness. “It was bad, I had a temperature of 104 and when I got to the hospital it was 106.” I asked him if I heard him right as I had not heard of someone with a temperature of 106 and he told me, “It was bad, 106.” He was so sick that he was actually hospitalized.

 

Sims looks amazingly like both of his parents and his mom grabbed her son and gave him a big hug when I told him it was good to see him back and gave me a big, “It is.” Great family.