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Tom Izzo Notes & Quotes: “I think our guys know we can play with Iowa”

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo met with the media today to discuss Saturday afternoon’s rematch against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Izzo started by saying he liked what he saw from his team on the practice court, and he also praised Iowa.

“We did have a good practice yesterday, I’m hoping to have a good one today,” Izzo said. “I think our guys realize that every opportunity right now is against a quality team, which is a good thing. But it’s against real good teams when you look at who we have left on our schedule, and no one more than Iowa, who went on a little rough stretch there, too, but is arguably one of the best team in this league. We’re excited to play, we’re fairly healthy.”

As far as starting lineups go, Izzo did confirm that he will start Malik Hall over Joey Hauser at the four-spot for the second game in a row. Hall played well and aggressively against Penn State last time out, scoring 10 points (making three shots in four attempts) with five rebounds, one assist and one steal in 20 minutes.

Izzo also said said that he’s not tinkering with the lineups as much as the fans or media may think, but when he does so, he is simply just trying to find the most optimal lineup for his basketball team.

“I’m not playing with (the lineup) as much as you guys think,” Izzo said. “I can see where you’d be frustrated, or why people would be, but I did that for a reason...but I am gonna start Malik tomorrow...I don’t really think it matters either because they (Hall and Hauser) played almost the same amount of minutes they would’ve played, I said that beforehand. Maybe Joey should be the coach, because (it was) his suggestion (to start Hall), and we had 21 points and seven or eight rebounds out of that position, and I thought both guys played pretty well. But there’s no secret, Malik is doing a good job. He brings something a little different.”

Izzo also mentioned how the lack of a preseason, shorter non-conference schedule and COVID issues are big reasons as to why it has been much harder this season to really find and stick with the correct lineup and rotations. He doesn’t want to make excuses, though, and he thinks his team can still make a run.

“If there’s ever a time when we can start putting it together, it is now,” Izzo said “(It’s) later than I would like, later than most people would like, but not of any fault of the players, I promise you that. It’s always fault of the coach. So if it is fault of the coach, this is one time that I’ll default to saying we’re trying to do the best we can under the circumstances.”

Michigan State played Iowa tough the first time around on Feb. 2. The Spartans were coming off three-straight losses, but raced out to an early lead over the Hawkeyes. However, Iowa took control of the lead at halftime, and despite a closely contested second half, MSU wound up losing by six points, with a final score of 84-78 in Iowa’s favor.

That last game was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for Izzo, who did not agree with the officiating in that contest, and his team. After playing Iowa so closely the first time, tension could be high in this contest, but Izzo and the Spartans now have the confidence to hang with a team of Iowa’s stature.

“The bottom line is they’ll be a different team, we’ll be a little bit different team, and you just hope that the one area that will be (improved) is I think our guys know we can play with them, and that’s important when your confidence has been shaken a little bit,” Izzo said. “We know they’re a very good team, they’re very well-coached, they’re probably the best offensive team in the league, and we understand that. But we’ve been pretty good defensively, it’s whether we can get our offense going.”

Izzo thinks his team is more prepared this time around for some of the zone looks Iowa’s defense gave MSU in the first meeting. He is also well aware of the impact that players like Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp make for the Hawkeyes.

“You know, they zoned us a little bit more (last time), and I would welcome that now, I think we would be more prepared for it and we’ll see what happens,” Izzo said. “We rebounded very well there (at Iowa), I think we had 20 offensive rebounds. We did some damn good things, we just couldn’t get it quite done, and part of the reason is they’re really good, too, and they’re really well-coached. Garza’s a load, he’s a load for anybody. (If) you do a hell of a job on him, he gets 22 (points), if you don’t, he gets 32 (points), and somewhere in the middle is where he’s been most of the time. I think a lot of people just stress, Garza, (but) right now Wieskamp has been shooting the ball maybe better than anybody in this league. He’s been on a tear the last three or four games.”

Izzo also discussed the recent play of center Marcus Bingham Jr. Bingham has cracked the starting lineup the past couple games and the team appears to play better overall with his presence on the court. Things like conditioning, durability, and consistency are still what Izzo wants to see more out of from Bingham, but he is earning more minutes, and able to be on the court for longer stretches now than he was able to earlier in the season.

“I think 20 minutes a game is what he can play right now,” Izzo said. “I still think because of his slightness, he has to exert so much more energy against a guy like (Garza). But definitely he’s up from the 10 (or) 12 minutes he was (at) early in the year from all the, I say, weight he lost over the summer because he was actually lighter when he came back than he was last year, which doesn’t make any sense.

“But Marcus has taken some steps to improve. I wouldn’t lie to you, it’s frustrating because I think if he took care of the things he needs to take care of, I think he’d put himself even in a better position. But at the same time, all we can do is go with what we got now, and he is playing more minutes in practice, he is playing a little more minutes in games. Foul trouble does create a problem every once in a while, and he usually gets that when he gets tired, but I think if we can get 18 to 20 minutes that would be great, and I think that would help us a lot too.”

Bingham himself also spoke to the media today, and he’s looking forward to the challenge of Iowa and guarding a guy of Garza’s skillset.

“Luka’s a good player,” Bingham said. “He’s a big body, and I’m just looking forward to playing him on Saturday.

“I just gotta do my job of being low and doing everything I can from stopping (Garza) from scoring on us,” Bingham later added.

Tom Izzo Remarks

Foster Loyer Remarks

Marcus Bingham Jr. Remarks