ANN ARBOR - Unhappy with the way Michigan reacted to its 70-63 victory over Michigan State, Spartan head coach Tom Izzo pounded the podium in anger and frustration at the post-game press conferencer, saying "Lets get the rivalry really going."
A question about the post-game exchange of words between Michigan State's Kalin Lucas and Michigan's Darius Morris led Izzo to land a hammer fist on the podium.
Morris taunted Lucas and Michigan State's Draymond Green during handshakes. At some point, Lucas either threw or tossed the basketball to or at Morris. Then Lucas had to be held back by Delvon Roe as Morris continued to talk and taunt, over his shoulder, as Morris made his way through the lay-up line.
Morris dribbled through the Spartan full-court press for a lay-up in the final seconds.
When asked if he saw the incident, Izzo said he didn't, and then asked what happened.
When informed that Lucas threw the ball at Morris after the game, Izzo said: "I'm not for that, so I'll straighten that out. But at the same time, going for a lay-up with three seconds left, he talked a lot of stuff all game, including at our place. Maybe (we) deserve it. So let's get the rivalry (pounds the podium) really going."
Morris, a sophomore from Los Angeles, was Michigan's third-leading scorer with 13 points. He was 3-of-11 from the field, including the late lay-up, as the Spartans played off of him and invited Morris (a 17 percent shooter from 3-point range for the year in conference games) to fire.
Morris had some extra words for Izzo during post-game handshakes during the Wolverines' victory at Michigan State on Jan. 27. Izzo didn't respond to Morris's words on that day.
"I've been on both sides of this thing," Izzo said. "I lost by 30 five or six times in a row when I started and it wasn't even that close, to be honest with you. I've been on the other end of it. There are going to be games every year that you have to play, that you have to get up for. The funny part is, yeah it bothers me. It's a rivalry. It bothers me. Just like it bothered Bo Schembechler and George Perles. Just like it bothered Lloyd Carr and different coaches we've had. Just like it will bother Mark Dantonio and Brady. So I mean yeah it bothers you."
Michigan coach John Beilein said he was not aware of the exchange after the game.
Lucas downplayed the incident after the game.
"He was talking smack, I was talking smack," Lucas said. "It's part of basketball."
When asked if he threw the ball at Morris, Lucas said, "No, I didn't throw it at him, we had just gone to it a little bit. That's part of basketball. Things are going to happen like that. Guys are going to get into it, but we still shook hands after and everything is fine."
When asked whether he was upset about the late lay-up or Morris's talking, Lucas said: "Both, actually. But it's part of basketball. Things happen."
When asked if Morris talked more smack than Lucas usually hears during a post-game handshake, Lucas said, "I don't know, man. Their whole team was excited to win. They beat Michigan State here. So they are going to be excited, they are going to talk."
Michigan State fell to 17-13 overall and 9-9 in Big Ten play. The Spartans are 16-13 in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, which will not count Michigan State's early-season victory over Chaminade, a non-Division I team.
Michigan State will be the No. 6 or 7 seed at the Big Ten Tournament next week. The Spartans will play in the opening round on Thursday.
If Penn State beats Minnesota on Sunday, the Nittany Lions will surpass Michigan State in the tournament seeding tiebreaker and MSU will fall to No. 7. Three Big Ten teams are tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 9-9: Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois. Penn State could make it a four-way tie.
"Guys can't hold their heads down too long because we have the Big Ten Tournament," Lucas said. "When we go back to practice, it's a whole new season. We just have to get going."
"The mindset is to win every game in the Big Ten Tournament. That's my mindset and that's our players' mindset."
When asked if this is the most important Big Ten Tournament of Izzo's career, because it's a rare occasion in which the Spartans' NCAA Tournament resume is in question, Izzo said: "I don't know. Most of you think I don't coach in the Big Ten Tournament, so maybe we'll find out different.
"If this team doesn't play better than it played today, it won't matter. We dug the hole. We dig ourselves out a little bit. We didn't embarrass ourselves today. I mean we fought back. But you can't get off to that start, you can't make those mistakes, you can't get off to that start."
As for the Spartans' spotty overall record, Izzo said, "I should be blamed for a lot of it."
The Spartans' strength of schedule is ranked No. 4 in the nation by the Sagarin Ratings.
"I still think if you're 9-9 in this league you have a chance to be a lot of things, but in our non-conference schedule, Lucas was hurt and all those things, it damaged us. But I don't know where we are (in the eyes of the selection committee).
"I'm going to take it either way. I'm going to do what we can do to win and there will be no politicking or begging, I can promise you that."
Green Blames Self
Michigan State junior Draymond Green called the loss "one of the most frustrating of my career."
Green scored 7 points on 3-of-14 shooting. He had six rebounds.
The Spartans enjoyed a 46-30 rebounding advantage, including 16 offensive rebounds. But the Spartans managed just 8 points off of offensive rebounds.
"I missed lay-ups and jump shots," Green said. "You're going to miss some jump shots. But lay-ups? Can't explain that one."
Green's and Izzo's definition of a "lay-up" includes put-backs from close range. Michigan State saw too many of them roll off the rim in this game.
Green has missed several practices since coming down with a severe case of stomach flu on Feb. 16, and sustaining an ankle sprain on Wednesday against Iowa.
Green missed practice on Thursday, but returned to practice yesterday.
"I practiced. It wasn't great, but I practiced," Green said. "I'm not going to blame this on my ankle. I played awful and that's the bottom line. My ankle was messed up against Iowa and I played better. I played awful today.
"It's a lay-up. It's something I could do when I was in kindergarten. It has nothing to do with missing a lay-up. I can make a lay-up without even jumping, so it has nothing to do with the ankle."
"We battled back and got to within 2 or 3, but lay-ups were the difference in the game. Go back and look at the film, and I missed all the lay-ups."
Izzo didn't argue with Green's assessment.
"I thought the key to the game was the number of lay-ups we missed," Izzo said. "DayDay just struggled. That's what happens when you don't practice. We missed so many of those lay-ups inside.
"I feel sorry for Draymond because he is taking this probably the hardest. It's not his fault. It's a collection of all of us early. We didn't play with the grit you need, and give Michigan credit, they hit shots. So I too will have another year and we'll get it back."
Nuts and Bolts
Michigan State was held without a field goal for the first 6:18, falling behind 10-1.
Michigan led by 14 at 33-19 late in the first half, but Keith Appling and Durrell Summers hit 3-pointers in the final 1:21 of the half to cut it to 33-25 at the break.
"Missed some shots. Kind of customary," Izzo said. " After a wicked start, we didn't rebound very good."
Summers was 4-of-15 from the field (3-of-7 from 3-pointer range) for 13 points. He had a game-high 13 rebounds.
"In the second half we had more energy," Izzo said. "We didn't turn the ball over. We just didn't make shots. They made some shots. They played better than us. They deserved to win."
Michigan State cut the lead to 56-54 on a pair of Lucas free throws with 5:33 left. But Michigan answered with a Jordan Morgan dunk off a screen and roll. Michigan State's Derrick Nix missed his defensive assignment, stepping out high on the ball screen rather than feathering it back and protecting the middle. Nix, who played only 2 minutes in the second half, was pulled immediately.
MSU then missed five of its next six shots, plus the front end of a Delvon Roe one-and-one, in falling behind 63-56 with 2:07 to play.
Comp & Rico Beard Discuss MSU's Tourney HopesMSU cut it to 63-59 on a Lucas 3-pointer with 1:27 remaining. But Austin Thornton fouled Tim Hardaway Jr. while trapping him in the corner as part of an MSU full court press. Izzo pulled Thornton out of the game, and indicated that he didn't want Thornton to foul at that juncture.
Now down by six, MSU missed its next three shots and had to go into foul scramble mode in the final :38 seconds.
"Of course it bothers you, but I was disappointed that we just didn't do some of the things I think we can do," Izzo said. "If we had gotten beat in other ways I would have accepted it. But I didn't think we played well enough on some of the things we do well. If we don't shoot it well, I don't have a problem with that. But we do make lay-ups.
"To win at this level, you need your three best players to play well and for us it's Lucas, Summers and Green. And that's the way it is. And as we all know one of them has struggled for quite a while and the other two have been pretty steady, but that's what you need and that's what we have to get. Those other guys are role players and you have play your roles."
(Video by Gillian Van Stratt of SpartanMag.com).
Comparoni & Rico Beard discuss MSU's NCAA Tournament hopes, with the Mag.com V-Cast.