Michigan State

Denzel Valentine (AP Photo)

Tom Izzo calls Denzel Valentine’s play during foreign tour ‘unbelievable’

Leave a comment

Michigan State wrapped up a 12-day tour of Italy on Monday.

The Spartans’ one-point loss to the senior national team from Georgia sent them back to East Lansing with three straight losses, but Tom Izzo is taking some positives away from the trip abroad.

“Denzel (Valentine), the first three games was unbelievable,” Izzo during an interview The Drive with Jack on WQTX, via Kyle of Austin of MLive.com. “He could have been the MVP of the whole tournament.”

Valentine began the trip with 16 points in a lopsided win over Basket Fiorentina. From there, the competition got much tougher, as the Spartans dropped their second game, 93-75, to the Russian National Team, a team ranked sixth in the FIBA world rankings. In a losing effort, Valentine had a game-high 21 points with five assists in 34 minutes of action.

He followed that performance up with 23 points in a 90-69 loss to the Italian National Team, ranked No. 36 in the world. In four games, the senior wing averaged 17.0 points per game.

The 6-foot-5 Valentine is coming off a junior campaign where he averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assits per game. His offseason also included a stint with USA Basketball in the 2015 Pan-Am Games.

Gavin Schilling and freshman Matt McQuaid were also praised by Izzo in the interview. Byrn Forbes scored in double figures three times on the trip, while Tum Tum Nairn recorded 16 assists to six turnovers in the three games against the senior national teams.

Michigan State’s impact transfer guard Eron Harris sat out the trip after his offseason arrest.

Finally at full strength, Michigan State sleepwalks through loss to Illinois

Tracy Abrams, Gavin Schilling, Adreian Payne

For the first time since January 4th, Michigan State played a basketball game with everyone on their roster available as Branden Dawson made his triumphant return from a broken hand on Saturday afternoon.

It’s the moment that we’ve been waiting for since Gary Harris sat out his first game with a bum ankle way back in November. It was the first chance that the Spartans had to prove that the team that lost five of their last nine games wasn’t the real Michigan State. That was the tired, beat down, injury-ravaged Michigan State.

This new Michigan State, the healthy one, was going to host a disappointing Illinois team with little left to play for, a team that had lost eight straight and 10 of 11 earlier this season.

And what ended up happening?

The Illini went into the Breslin Center and smacked around the No. 18 Spartans, jumping out to a double-digit first half lead and hanging on to win 53-46.


Gary Harris scored 19 of those 46 points. He played well. Adreian Payne? He finished with four points, seven boards, just five field goals attempted and no fouls or blocks. Denzel Valentine was 1-for-6 from the floor with five turnovers. Keith Appling was 2-for-5 with four turnovers.

OK, then.

The most disconcerting part had nothing to do with the loss itself, because those happen. Everyone has off nights, even teams that are supposedly getting to full-strength and back to being a national title contender. No one — not even a Tom Izzo-coached team — is immune to a stinker.

But this wasn’t just an off-night from the Spartans. They looked completely out of it. Their fight wasn’t there, and in the end, that’s supposed to be what the difference-maker is for this group. Michigan State has a reputation for playing harder and more physical than anyone, and it just so happens that these guys are as talented as anyone in the country. That’s why the nation was enamored with them even when they didn’t have all their pieces available.

The silver lining? I doubt that Michigan State will sleepwalk through a game again, because I don’t think that anyone on that roster is going to enjoy what happens in practice the next couple of days. Effort is the only thing that an individual can control in a basketball game. They can, and I expect that they will, play harder than this for the next month.

The bigger issue may actually be Keith Appling. Michigan State’s all-Big Ten point guard is simply a shell of himself. “Keith Appling is a major problem right now because he just can’t do what he could do,” Izzo told reporters after the game. He injured his right wrist in December, and he is clearly not right. He can’t shoot, I don’t know how well he can dribble with his right hand, he’s not attacking the basket. It’s bad.

Travis Trice is a decent-enough replacement for Appling, but he’s not an all-league caliber player.

Effort issues can be fixed, but if Appling isn’t healthy, Michigan State will never truly be at full-strength.

Tom Izzo: Adreian Payne ‘very doubtful’ for Tuesday’s showdown with Iowa

Adreian Payne
Leave a comment

Adreian Payne has missed the last five games with a sprained foot, and it finally caught up to the Spartans on Saturday as they lost to Michigan in East Lansing.

On Tuesday, the Spartans head down to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes, and head coach Tom Izzo doesn’t expect to have Payne in the lineup for that game.

“I don’t know if it’s a couple of weeks, but he’s day-to-day,” Izzo on the Big Ten teleconference on Monday morning. “He ran yesterday a little bit more, with more weight on it, but he’s very doubtful for tomorrow. How he does Wednesday and Thursday will determine the rest of the week.” He described Payne’s status as “slim to none to none.”

Payne isn’t the only player the Spartans are missing, as Branden Dawson will be out around another four weeks with a broken hand. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that Keith Appling is dealing with nagging wrist and hip injuries, although he won’t be sitting out with Michigan State’s starting front line currently out.

Matt Costello back to practice for Michigan State, questionable for start of Big Ten play

Matt Costello
Leave a comment

On Saturday, Michigan State reinserted freshman forward Kenny Kaminski into the lineup, missing the previous three games with a suspension, in the Spartans’ 101-48 win over New Orleans.

The fifth-ranked Spartans can get more help to the frontline as sophomore forward Matt Costello is back to practicing with the team. The 6-foot-9 Costello has not played since Michigan State’s home loss to North Carolina on Dec. 4 with what MLive.com reports as a case of mononucleosis.

While he has returned to practice this week, his return to the floor has yet to be determined.

“We’ll be very cautious with him,” Izzo said. “It depends on another blood test and this and that. He’s been given the go-ahead to go up and down (run the full length of the court), almost none in a lot of contact. So we’re not having him do much contact.”

Michigan State kicks off league play on the road against Penn State and Indiana. Both those games might also see Costello sidelined. Costello is averaging 3.4 points, 3.5 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game. Michigan State hasn’t played at full strength for the majority of the month with Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne all battling injuries at one point or another, while Kaminksi’s suspension also cut into the depth.

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo gets shot out of a cannon? (VIDEO)

Tom Izzo

Few coaches in college basketball have embraced the concept of “Midnight Madness” the way that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has. Every year the head coach has come up with something original, with movies such as “300” and “Iron Man” serving as inspiration over the years.

On Friday night Izzo and Michigan State seemingly took things to another level, with an absence of original ideas leading to athletic director Mark Hollis coming up with the idea to shoot the coach out of a cannon. The brainstorming process and the actual event can be seen in the video below, with Michigan State ultimately using a “stunt double” of sorts instead of the State of Michigan’s highest-paid public employee.

Tom Izzo addresses comments by Korie Lucious, Chris Allen on their drug use

Tom Izzo

When Tom Izzo kicked Chris Allen and Korie Lucious out of the Michigan State program during the 2010-2011 season I bet he never thought that he would be spending time talking about the reasons for those dismissals as he helped prepare his Spartans, a consensus top three team, for the 2013-2014 season.

But thanks to a couple of confessionals, he has been.

Lucious said in an interview with blackathlete.net last week that it was weed that got him booted from East Lansing. “I was smoking I don’t want to tell a lot of people that but I was smoking a lot of weed at Michigan State,” he said. ” Thats the real reason I got kicked off the team and I let my mom, family and friends down.”

Allen came clean a couple of months prior to that, as he came clean about the reasons he was dismissed from the Spartan team, admitting his drug use in an effort to crush rumors that he had slept with a teammate’s girlfriend.

Allen, in part, wrote (sic): “to athletes who smoke WEED its not worth it, Yeah it makes you happy and forget all the BS you thought your coach was on with you but at the same time it’s a easy way to get you out of a respectable program and of course it’s deeper than just weed but that’s for me and the people that was at Michigan state those years to know.”

Izzo addressed those comments during an interview on “Mad Dog in the Morning” on 730 AM in Lansing, MI.

“I probably let them down,” Izzo said. “Everybody lets everybody down. But first of all, I thought it was ridiculous that now we’re reporting on websites, you know? I guess that’s the way it’s turned, that’s what I was told. But I didn’t talk to Korie. I talked to Chris a lot. Because Chris has left, he’s matured a little bit, he’s grown up and tried to come back and apologize for things.”

“[T]here are certain things coaches can’t say,” he continued. “There’s certain things that, coaches put up with a lot. Just like parents do. I mean, nobody throws their kid under the bus if he makes a mistake. But if the kid repeats the same mistake over and over, then it’s not a mistake, it’s a habit. When it becomes a habit, those things are hard to handle.”

(h/t Joe Rexrode)