November 18, 2011

Izzo loves defensive effort in victory over Texas Southern

EAST LANSING - Defense, rebounding and a scrappy, aggressive style enabled the Spartans to stay competitive with Duke and North Carolina last week. On Friday night at Breslin Center, those traits allowed Michigan State to blow out Texas Southern in the home opener.

Freshman Branden Dawson scored a game-high 13-points on 6-of-7 shooting, while Draymond Green and Adreian Payne had double-doubles.

"There were some very good things, in this game," said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. "Some were great. At times our defense was suffocating."

Michigan State (1-2) will play host to Arkansas-Little Rock at 6 p.m. on Sunday (BRN).

"It was one baby step," Izzo said of the victory. "We have a lot more steps to go."

Green had 12 points and 11 rebounds. He was 2-of-3 from 3-point range.

Payne had 10 points and 10 rebounds, on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.

Defensively, MSU held Texas Southern - the 2010 Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season champion - to 26 percent shooting. Texas Southern was just 4-of-23 from the field at halftime, as MSU enjoyed a 32-12 lead at the break and was never threatened.

"All in all, our defense was great and our rebounding was great," Izzo said.

MSU held a 50-29 edge on the glass.

In short, Izzo:

  • Thought MSU's zone offense operated well.

    "This is the first team that zoned us the whole game in a long time," Izzo said.

    MSU shot 46.8 percent from the field for the game.

    "If it wasn't for the rat pack at the end, we would have shot 50 percent," Izzo said.

  • Liked Nix's effort and approach.

    "We grew a lot from those (UNC and Duke) games," Izzo said, "and the best example would be Nix. He had that awful game in New York, and you can do one of two things and he handled himself like a man and came back."

  • Felt good about Travis Trice, who came off the bench for 11 points and 5 rebounds.

    "I liked the way Travis played," Izzo said. "He is my whipping boy right now. He did some real good things, yet he has to continue to play intelligent basketball because he is a smart kid and sometimes (there is) over-penetrations and maybe not seeing the court like he should. He made some shots. But God the kid plays good defense. Until the end (of the game), he really checked some people."

    Wanting More Out Of Payne

    Izzo was less satisfied with Payne, the Spartans' talented 6-foot-10 sophomore center.

    "He gets a double-double, yet I have to admit I thought he was (just) okay," Izzo said. "I didn't think he was great.

    "It's a back-handed compliment that I expect a lot more out of him. A.P. has to work on how to play harder all the time. He gets into that trot, that Dayton trot.

    "We are trying to run our break and we have to get him out of third gear because he can run like a deer."

    Appling With The Push

    Keith Appling didn't have a great game on the stat sheet, scoring 6 points on 2-of-6 shooting. But he pushed the ball better and faster than at any time all season. He had four assists and two turnovers, and might have had a couple more assists if teammates had converted for him.

    "He is looking more and more comfortable," Izzo said. "The more we can run, that benefits Keith a lot."

    Izzo sees progress in the way the wings are running.

    "B.J. (Dawson) ran pretty good in the second half," Izzo said. "We get B.J., and we get those point guards, and one of them (Appling) can play more than one position. Then we have some guys that come in and shoot. We have enough parts. We just have to get them all together. It is going to take some time."

    Byrd Gets Some Time

    Russell Byrd saw some time at power forward, briefly. He assisted on an inside-out pass to Appling for a 3-pointer. Byrd scored 5 points on 1-of-4 shooting.

    "He did make some passes," Izzo said. "He kept some balls alive. He didn't look like he was favoring his foot any. He just has to keep getting aggressive and understanding what he has to do.

    "We put him at the four a little and moved him around. He made some progress. I thought that was a successful home opener for him."

    Byrd played 12 minutes.

    "If we could do that a few more games, maybe we could get him into this rotation," Izzo said.

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