ST. LOUIS - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had as big a smile on his face during his post-game comments in the locker room as he has had since his team cut down the nets in Indianapolis after beating Louisville to get to the Final Four last season. On Sunday, Michigan State cut down the nets in St. Louis to earn a return trip to Indianapolis where they will play hometown Butler in the Final Four.
Izzo had plenty to smile about after earning a spot in the Final Four for the sixth time in his career as the head coach of the Spartans. And one of the things that made Izzo smile the widest was the way his team dedicated their play to injured point guard Kalin Lucas, who was injured in the first half of Michigan State's second-round game against Maryland.
"We did it with Korie Lucious doing an incredible job after getting dogged all game," Izzo said. "Some of our other guys stepped up like Draymond (Green) and Raymar (Morgan). And thank goodness that we got Durrell (Summers) back in the game because Durrell did a great job. But even the Austin Thornton's who came in, we had a lot of guys that just helped us. There was a lot of subbing going on. We probably played a couple of guys too long and they got tired but it was a pretty good win."
Michigan State got every minute they could out of Lucious, who showed signs of fatigue down the stretch after playing a total of 74 minutes in two games over the weekend.
"He missed some good shots in the second half," said Izzo. "He is walking on his knees instead of his feet."
In the final 11 seconds of the game Lucious got the ball to Green, fed it to Morgan. The senior from Canton, Ohio, went up strong, was fouled, and sunk the game-winning free throw before missing the second intentionally.
"I did have faith in Raymar," said Izzo. "He had a tough first half and a lot better second half. He has been shooting well from the line. We have been shooting more free throws. Yesterday in practice we must have spent half of our time shooting free throws, which is odd for me but we are just so beat up. We walked through in the hotel and we walked through here. We didn't do much physically, we just set up their press breakers and that is about all we did going up and down. Everything else we walked through. We got a chance to shoot a lot of free throws. Ray shot them well then. That is what seniors are supposed to do."
With the win, Izzo becomes just the seventh coach all time to lead a team to six Final Fours.