The Michigan State Spartans got a win the team desperately needed at Indiana on Saturday afternoon. The Spartans defeated the Hoosiers by a final score of 78-71, and MSU got its first victory since Feb. 9 against Penn State.
Speaking at the postgame press conference, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and the players who met with the media were obviously in much more chipper moods compared to the past few times.
Tom Izzo speaking now.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) February 20, 2021
He says he is proud his guys and happy for the fans.
“I’m happy for our guys, happy for our fans, I know it’s been a miserable stretch here,” Izzo said. “The one thing I guess I’m feeling good and proud about is, in general, we have practiced pretty good. We’ve had more meetings, we kept grinding it, we kept working at it. I told you in this (earlier) press conference (the team) didn’t kind of quit, or quit practicing well.”
Izzo praised many of his the players. He thought Joshua Langford set the tempo and that Aaron Henry’s play was “unbelievable.” Izzo also mentioned that essentially this was the version of Gabe Brown the team has been missing, and that Rocket Watts played much better today. He added that Watts had his best couple of days of practice that Izzo has witnessed him have. Thomas Kithier was another guy who Izzo mentioned as playing well against the Hoosiers.
However, Izzo also thought the Spartans struggled at the four-spot (power forward). Overall, Izzo said MSU “got a lot out of a lot of people in small ways, but the best thing was that it was a team win.”
Izzo also praised Indiana sophomore center Trayce Jackson-Davis, calling him a “superstar.” Jackson-Davis, who was heavily recruited by Izzo and Michigan State, dropped a career-high and game-high 34 points.
Despite the seven-point victory, it was actually another slow start for the Spartans in terms of turnovers and poor shooting from the field. Luckily, Michigan State recovered from that, but it was something Izzo mentioned.
Izzo is hoping his team can build off of this game, but he knows the Spartans have a long way to go and one win isn’t going to fix the many issues this team has dealt with.
“We’re not stupid,” Izzo said. “We dug ourselves the hole of all holes, and I don’t think we just dug it, some of that was given to us, some of it was situations and some of it was us...I’m just proud that nobody gave in. I think a lot of people out there…were questioning whether they were quitting on anybody. That’s never gonna happen here, and it didn’t happen here. (But) one game doesn’t make it all better.”
Izzo said that he noticed a change in his team today, and that started with body language.
“Body language is my favorite thing because I think you can read body language,” Izzo said. He thought Aaron Henry, Josh Langford and Rocket Watts all looked to have better body language today.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) February 20, 2021
“Body language is my favorite thing because I think you can read body language,” Izzo said. “Again, the mental aspect of things. I thought Josh (Langford) told Aaron (Henry) that yesterday in practice. I always say the hardest thing to do for any person...is to self-evaluate. That’s where you need players telling players about that, and I thought Josh did that, and that changed a lot of things for us. Aaron’s body language was better, and Rocket (Watts’) was better, and Josh deserves some credit for that.”
Given Michigan State’s struggles this season, there have been many questions about Izzo’s decision-making and the ability of the team overall. While Izzo recently mentioned that he is not worried about the national perception or brand of Michigan State or himself, he knows those questions are out there.
“People are asking me if the game passed me by, one average year in 23 years,” Izzo said. “I mean that’s the nature of the beast of these jobs and playing at this level. I understand it.”
One person who certainly doesn’t believe Izzo has lost anything is Josh Langford. Langford, who Izzo said is helping MSU become a more player-coached team, is incredibly grateful for what Izzo has taught him.
Josh Langford’s turn:— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) February 20, 2021
“I think Coach Izzo is one of the greatest leaders to ever live,” Langford says.
Adds that Izzo’s approach helps him be a leader.
“Coach (Izzo) is one of the greatest leaders that I’ve ever been around,” Langford said. “I think he’s one of the greatest leaders to ever live. I may be a little biased, but this is my opinion — I’m with him every day. Just being around him and just being around my teammates — those guys looking to me — it helps me to step up and lead.”
Izzo actually took a spill early in the game, when Indiana’s Aljami Durham barreled into the coach on the sidelines while attempting to save the ball from going out of bounds. Thankfully, Izzo was just fine and able to joke about it afterward.
Izzo on this play: "I was ticked off at the officials. They didn't call a charge. I didn't move or anything." https://t.co/WgHlwotRBH— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) February 20, 2021
While Izzo, Langford and Gabe Brown all had insightful things to say in the postgame, perhaps Aaron Henry summed things up best with this gem of a quote:
“Excuse my French, but it was time for us to strap our nuts on,” Henry said.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) February 20, 2021
“We had to learn to take these games for ourselves,” Henry said. “Nobody’s gonna give us anything, it’s the Big Ten. We had to learn, excuse my French, to strap our nuts on and really play.”
Henry also said the team was “fed up” with losing. He tied his career-high with 27 points, but said he is much more worried about getting a team win than putting up points. He was happy to get the victory today, and it meant a lot to him to be able to do so in his home state of Indiana in front of his family.
The Spartans return to the Breslin Center on Tuesday to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini.