February 10, 2009

Video: Izzo says his team is getting tougher

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo isn't quite ready to say that his team is as tough as some of his teams that won Big Ten championships and played in Final Fours. But Izzo did concede that his team has gotten tougher over the course of the season. That much was evident in the No. 9 ranked Spartans 54-42 victory over Michigan at Crisler Arena Tuesday.

Michigan State faced a hungry Michigan team determined to add another brand name program to their season resume that already includes wins over Duke and UCLA. But Michigan State refused to have their name added to Michigan's NCAA tournament resume and instead strengthened their own with a Big Ten-best sixth straight road victory.

With the win, Michigan State moved to 10-2 in the Big Ten conference and 20-4 overall. The Spartans have a week off to heal up and get Raymar Morgan back into the line-up before their next game with Purdue.

"We need a little break," said Izzo. "I think the big thing is now getting Raymar back, get him incorporated and now finally come with a rotation pattern that would be better for me and most importantly better for the players."

Michigan State got outstanding defensive efforts from captains Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton, who held dynamic Michigan sophomore Manny Harris to 7 points for the game and just two points in the first half.

"Travis Walton is pretty good one-on-one, but he is real good with some help," Izzo. "I can't speak enough of the job he did tonight. I am not sure he has played the kind of defense, for him, that we need, all year long. But tonight, he was a Big Ten defensive MVP candidate."

After playing a little bit tight in the opening half, Lucas played like the league's best point guard in the second half. The dynamic sophomore was 4-of-8 from the field and finished with a team-high 15 points. Lucas was a perfect 6-
In Morgan's absence, Michigan State continued to get production from freshmen forwards Delvon Roe and Draymond Green. Roe played a season-high 28 minutes against the Wolverines and also turned in his best game of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Roe was 5-of-7 from the field against Michigan and was also much better at the free-throw line where he made 4-of-6 attempts.

"This is getting more exciting for me because the kid has worked so hard and been through so much and never complains," said Izzo of Roe. "He just keeps working. I said it would probably be the beginning of February before we started to see some of the real Delvon Roe, and we are starting to see it."

Green scored just two points but the freshman's lone field goal came during a pivotal stretch in the second half. The freshman from Saginaw also played outstanding defense during his 17 minutes of playing time.

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