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November 15, 2013

Izzo: 'We better start practicing better'

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Adreian Payne scored 26 points resulting in No. 2 Michigan State avoiding a stunning upset Friday night, holding off Columbia 62-53 in the final minutes.

The Spartans (3-0) beat top-ranked Kentucky earlier in the week, and they'll have a chance to move to the top of next week's AP Top 25, but only after trailing for a majority of the second half against the poised, patient Lions (1-2).

Michigan State scored the game's first nine points, but the Spartans trailed 26-22 at halftime and didn't lead again until Gary Harris' three-point play put Michigan State ahead 49-46 with 7:28 to go.

The Spartans held Columbia without a field goal for the final 4:27.

Columbia's Meiko Lyles made a 3-pointer with 6:08 to go to tie it at 51, and the Lions trailed 54-53 after a layup by Alex Rosenberg, but they didn't score again.

Down 55-53, Columbia committed back-to-back shot clock violations. The Lions may have been thrown off by the Michigan State crowd, which was counting the clock down falsely - a couple seconds too late.

Still, Columbia had a chance to tie it with 1:47 to go, but Isaac Cohen missed the front end of a one-and-one. At the other end, Keith Appling drove into the teeth of the Columbia defense and lobbed an alley-oop to Payne that made it 57-53.

Michigan State hasn't been No. 1 in the AP poll since 2001, the year after the Spartans won the national championship.

The Spartans were obviously in danger of a letdown after beating top-ranked Kentucky earlier in the week, but they appeared to avoid that when they opened the game on a 9-0 run.

But perhaps the game was a little too easy for Michigan State at the start. The Spartans ended up shooting 35 percent in the first half, and Columbia got comfortable quickly.

Rosenberg's layup capped a 9-0 run for the Lions that put them ahead 14-11, and Michigan State had a hard time shaking them after that.

Payne had 11 rebounds and shot 9 of 15 from the field. The Spartans attempted 30 free throws to Columbia's 11, but although they had some success inside in the second half, they finished 0 of 7 from 3-point range.

Harris scored 11 points and Denzel Valentine had 10.

Izzo Verbatim

Opening statement:
I'm very disappointed. It's a game that you want to win, a game that you win ugly. I'm very disappointed in it. You go into a game after you get out-rebounded and you get out-rebounded again. I can stand going 0-7 from three, withstand some things, but it's a team that's reading their press clippings, listening to Twitter, team that's got to hope now that Kansas blows somebody out so they move them ahead of us because we proved tonight that we're not ready to handle any kind of success and that disappoints me. (Adreian) Payne played okay on one end, he did some pretty good things. I really thought (Keith) Appling did an incredible job defensively. That kid is a heck of a player, heck of a shooter, (Grant) Mullins, and Keith did a great job on him and if somebody would have made a shot, Keith would have had 10 assists, so I think those two guys I felt played decent. And I thought (Travis) Trice was okay and Alvin Ellis came in and, having not practiced with anything but the scout team, I thought did a pretty good job. Our big guys we still got some work to do, our perimeter guys just looked like they were satisfied with winning a game, one game, and that's disappointing. So I'll take questions and get to work.

On the team's practice the day before the game:
When you have a one-day prep like this, fairness to the players, it's hard. They got Wednesday off because we don't want to injury anybody for the NCAA, we've got to take our days off. It was a tough one-day prep, in all fairness to the players, but at the same time we worked on our rebounding and we just didn't get anything out of certain guys. (Denzel) Valentine struggled and (Branden) Dawson rebounded a little bit. (Matt) Costello struggled, and we went awfully small at times because we had so many guys that struggled. I just didn't like, more than anything, I didn't like the heart of our guys and I don't say that very often. It's a good learning lesson. We haven't practiced very well the last couple of days to be honest with you. The day before Kentucky we did, two days before that, and we didn't yesterday. There's only so much you can do before a game, especially in this era of people where we kind of teach everybody not to work hard.

On Columbia's defense:
We didn't work a lot on our man, but we've done it a lot before. I mean, we had shots, we missed shots. We had that 9-0 lead and we subbed a lot of guys, so I think I've got to take some blame for that too. That's not the way we planned it, it's the way it happened, and it kind of took the wind out of our sails. I'm sure it'll be 20% on the players and 80% on me, so I'm going to take most of the blame because I'm the one that's supposed to have them ready to play. I'm the one that's supposed to, you know, rebounding here is a religion, and maybe this team wants to change that, so I've got to make sure that doesn't happen.

On the Influence of media and was your team's performance a surprise:
It surprised me, because I just didn't think that the character of these guys was like that. You know it's one game, and we lost to Wright State when we won the national championship. I'm a big boy, I can understand things, and I've been through a lot of things, but I just didn't like the way we responded to anything. I didn't like the way we responded to the challenge of one of the more embarrassing rebounding nights. There were a lot of effort-related things, loose balls we didn't come up with; we're up three late in the game and a guy goes in and shoots an air ball with thirty seconds left on the shot clock. We seemed a little selfish and this is not a selfish team but that means we didn't respect our opponents, we didn't respect the game, and we really deserved to get beat. Then again, once in a while you've got to win a game when you deserve to get beat. Maybe that's the mark of a decent team. We haven't proven enough to be considered a great team. We're a doggone good team with a long, long way to go.

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