EAST LANSING – Tom Izzo walked into the postgame press conference soaking wet after his guys sprayed him with water the second he entered the locker room following Michigan State's 71-67 win over No. 4 Ohio State.
It was a moment in time the 66-year old wouldn't have celebrated or allowed himself to relish last year. At Michigan State, you don't hose a coach down for winning a regular-season game, peek at Izzo's trophy case, and you will understand why.
However, considering MSU saved its season in days, defeating back-to-back top-5 Big Ten teams for the first time in program history, he allowed it.
"What we've gone through this year, I enjoyed every minute of it … it was awesome," Izzo told reporters in a videoconference.
A week ago, Michigan State sat at 4-9 in league play, 10-9 overall, and seemed headed for Izzo's worst season since taking over as head coach in 1995.
Now, the Spartans have a clear path to victory with four games against Maryland, Indiana, and Michigan left.
"It was special because it was genuine," said Izzo. "I don't think we're about winning games here, but you've got to win games to advance, and those were two big, big games … we've been a little down and out. There's no question."
Not everything went right for MSU Thursday night, comparable to the win over Illinois, besting Ohio State required perseverance, poise, and grit.
Michigan State had 15 turnovers and went an extended period without its two best players in Joshua Langford and Aaron Henry due to foul trouble.
Offensively, the Spartans disappeared for long stretches, at one point shooting 1-for-15, giving OSU a 9-point lead.
But MSU didn't fear the challenge; they faced it head-on, tying the game with six minutes left. By then, Henry took over at point guard and helped his team finish 9-for-11 while forcing the Buckeyes to miss eight straight shots to close the game out.
"So, if they want to throw water on me or soap or Gatorade, whatever they want to throw at me, I'm in for it right now," Izzo said.
When Michigan State began its stretch of six games in 13 days, Henry vowed to take it one day at a time, and after winning the first two contests, he stuck to his original approach.
MSU's budding star didn't want to celebrate too much, especially with work still to be done.
"Don't applaud a fish for swimming," said Henry. "Fish swim all day. Spartans have won before. We have won before."
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