March 22, 2012

Defending Siva will take more than Appling

PHOENIX - Michigan State needed every one of Keith Appling's 19 points in the third round of the NCAA tournament to defeat Atlantic 10 tournament champion Saint Louis and advance to the Spartan program's 10th Sweet Sixteen appearance during the past 15 years.

But the Spartans will need as big a performance from the former McDonald's All-American on defense against Louisville point guard Peyton Siva if Michigan State is going to knock off the Big East Tournament champion and advance to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 Marquette/No. 7 seed Florida.

Appling, a third-team All-Big Ten selection and his team's MVP on defense has played well in match-ups against some of the more athletic point guards in the Big Ten including Purdue's Lewis Jackson, Michigan's Trey Burke, and Penn State's Tim Frazier. But those past tests will not fully prepare him for Siva, who possesses a unique skill set among college point guards.

"Siva is out of control, in control," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "He's a unique guard. He can spin dribble. He can do all the things that sometimes you tell your guards not to do in traffic and he does it well."

Appling's top priority is to keep 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior out of the paint. That will not be easy.

"How do you keep him out of there?," joked Izzo. "Change the NCAA rules, let us play with six guys, maybe, would be a big help. He's a guy that one-on-one, I mean, we're going to try to keep him out of the paint. That's going to be a big part of our game plan. But that one's easier said than done. Because I've seen a lot of teams in the league and they know he's the straw that stirs the drink. And not very many have done a very good job of that."

Even a player of Appling's qualifications on defense will need help to slow down Louisville's dynamic point guard.

"We think we've got a great guy in Appling to give him some problems," Izzo, "but it will be done by committee, not by one man."

Appling agrees that the defense-by-committee approach is probably best against Siva.

"He is in a league of his own," said Appling. "He is a very quick, explosive guard and I am just going to have to try and stay in front of him as much as I can. If I get beat, I am going to have to rely on my teammates on the weak side to help me."

Shooter, Shooter

Northwestern's Jon Shurna is the only player in the Big Ten that attempted as many 3-pointer as Louisville's Kyle Kuric, who has attempted 216 triples in 2012-2013.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound wing from Evansville (Ind.) has made 33.3 percent of the 3-pointers he has taken as a senior. Kuric leads the Cardinals at 13.0 points per game.

"One thing you have to do with him is limit his 3-point shots," said Thornton, who will defend Kuric for the Spartans. "He takes about four or five shots a game and once he gets going the other guys really get rolling. It is going to be a tough challenge for us all. We really have to lock in and focus and take care of our jobs.

Michigan State freshman Brandan Kearney will split time defending Kuric and Chris Smith.

Kearney is looking forward to the challenge of defending Louisville on the perimeter after getting taken out of his comfort zone by Saint Louis Dwayne Evans who used his strength advantage to frustrate the Michigan State freshman.

"The guys they have are pretty quick so I can probably use my length against them," said Kearney, "and beat them to spots on the floor or when the try and take me off the dribble."

Limit Turnovers for Touchdowns

Louisville's pressure defense will create turnovers. Michigan State is focused on making sure that turnovers do not lead to run outs and easy transition baskets.

"Transition (is key), especially on the defensive end," said Austin Thornton. "They do a great job of turning turnovers into touchdowns like we like to say. That is one thing that goes back to the offense is taking care of the ball so they don't lead out to easy shots and layups for them."

Fast and Physical

Senior transfer Brandon Wood is convinced that head coach Tom Izzo gives the Spartans an edge during the NCAA Tournament.

"By him being here plenty of times and knowing what it takes to get his team to as prepared as they can be is definitely an advantage," Wood said. "As a team we just have to soak it all in and continue to study on our own and prepare on own in addition to what he has for us."

But Wood knows that players on his team and Louisville will ultimately determine which team will advance to the Elite Eight.

"This is the Sweet Sixteen and this is where every team wants to be," said Wood. "Each team is going to do whatever we can do to get to the next round. I think it is going to be a war, it is going to be a fight, fast, physical, whatever adjective you can think of. We are just ready for it. I think we are prepared as we are going to be and looking forward to tomorrow night."

Green: "I hate losing, more than I love winning"

When it comes to Michigan State basketball greats, Earvin "Magic" Johnson stands above all others. Draymond Green is not Magic, but he does share some things in common with the Spartan icon.

"The most important thing about me as a competitor, is that I hate losing more than I love winning," said Green. "Losing just doesn't sit well with me in anything that I am doing. From the stories that I hear about Magic, he's the same way. I think that is why as I have been a Spartan and got to know him more, my respect for him continues to grow."


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