DETROIT — It wasn’t exactly pretty, but MSU took care of business Saturday afternoon in Little Caesar's Arena, downing the Oakland Grizzlies 72-49.
“It was a strange game,” said Coach Izzo in the post-game press conference, “I thought we played good enough to shoot it a lot better than we did. We took 33 threes, which is a joke... I wasn’t pleased with how we played, in general, but that usually happened when you don’t shoot well. But I am sure Greg wasn’t pleased either.”
Unfortunately for the Spartans, only 7 of those 33 three found the bottom of the net, which equals a less than impressive 21%. This continues a concerning trend for the Spartans, who have now shot below 30% from behind the arc in half of their games so far this year.
Two players, in particular, struggled from beyond the arc. Cassius Winston, in his return to his home town, was 1 for 9, while Gabe Brown was 0 for 5. While both players have proven themselves to be good shooters in the past, at some point this year, that version of them needs to reappear.
Despite the problems, Izzo still saw progress. “We defended. We ran. Those were both positives. We turned it over some  and we missed shots. Those were the negatives.”
There were other positives as well. Aaron Henry quietly had a good game, putting up 10 points on 4 for 9 shooting (2 of 5 from three) to go with 6 assists. Thomas Kithier put up 8 points in only 9 total minutes, most of which seemed to come on his patented cloaking-device move where he suddenly appears unguarded at the rim.
“Thomas Kithier deserved to play way more minutes than he played. I thought he played really well.” Izzo later bemoaned the fact that he and Coach Stevens failed to get Kithier more minutes. “He defended well; he rebounded well; he scored well.”
At the end of the day, it is still a 23-point win on a neutral court, and the month-long process of preparing for the meat of the Big Ten schedule in January continues. “We will see if we get better this week. This is a big week for us,” said Coach Izzo. MSU returns to action on Wednesday at Northwestern before finally returning to Breslin for the next five straight.
As for this rookie “reporter,” this game marked my first experience as a credentialed member of the media. It made for a very interesting day. I started the day at 10 AM, two hours before tip in the media lounge, deep in the bowls of LCA. Food and snacks were available throughout the day, and several TVs allowed us to keep tabs on the other action of the day.
Once the game started, I was assigned a seat in “media row,” just a few rows off of the baseline next to the Spartan Brass. I briefly considered grabbing a trombone and helping out with the fight song during a timeout, but I thought better of it. There was even a plug for my laptop such that I could easily live Tweet during the game.
But, perhaps the most fun was the post-game press conference. Before Coach Izzo arrived, the media killed time by trying to watch the overtime period of the Michigan-Oregon game. That was fine, except for the fact that none of the 10 or so devices in the room was at exactly the same point in time, which lead to the media members yelling out events of the final minutes in random order. Izzo then came in before the game actuall ended.
Then, there were the quotes from Izzo that you may not have heard elsewhere. He started by complaining about the font size on the stat sheet:
“Anyone want to read this to me, like I’m in kindergarten, because I can’t see it? I’ll wear glasses in here next time. To Hell with the NCAA, let’s get bigger numbers on here.”
He also had some fun comments about Coach Kampe’s attire:
“You gotta respect Kampe, because he comes in a tie today and I said, ‘who the hell are you,’ usually he’s got a snowmobile suit on.”
Izzo also bristled when asked about the combined, 70+ years of coaching experience between Izzo and Kampe, “You know, if I was really smart, I wouldn’t even answer that question, because you made me feel absolutely terrible… like 75 years… just cause you’re a little younger, don’t be a jerk… some day, you’re going to feel bad saying that.”
But perhaps the best comment was about Steven Izzo’s stat line of 3 rebounds. One reporter asked, “In the house of the Pistons, did you get a kick out of Steven rebounding like Rodman out there?”
Izzo replied, after a pause: “Are you on drugs? Are you crazy?” But, even Izzo had to admit, “I am on [Henry] about his rebounding, so maybe I should start Steven [Izzo], he had three and Aaron had two, so I might think about that this week.”
After a fashion, he added, “Memories are awesome things. Someday, there will be some memories that will last two lifetimes, and I greatly appreciate that.”
Today will be a good memory for me as well. And I also appreciate the opportunity. Go Green.