After two-straight losses, the Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball team was finally able to flip the switch and come out on top against the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon. The Spartans defeated the Hoosiers by a final score of 76-61.
After the game ended, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, along with players Malik Hall, A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker, all came out to give statements and take questions for the postgame presser.
First up was Hall. Hall’s performance during the game — 18 points, six rebounds, one block and one assist — really lifted the team out of a few slumps multiple times throughout the contest. When asked about the toughness and energy aspects of this game that were lacking against Wisconsin, Hall mentioned that it was a major focus for the the Spartans leading up to this game.
“We had a couple team meetings about it,” Hall said about the team’s energy and focus. “Players only and with coaching staff also. I’m just glad we came out and played hard.”
Hall mentioned that overall, this win was due to his team “staying gritty” and that was evident throughout the game.
“Really, it’s the culture here,” Hall stated. “The culture here has always been play hard, get your nose dirty. Really that’s what we said in the meetings. We’re not going to be the group that shies away from the culture that (Coach Izzo’s) built here for so long. That’s kind of what it came down to. It was some people calling people out...to make sure everyone got the image and stayed true to it.”
Next up to talk about the game was Coach Izzo.
“I told my team, the first thing I said was...It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty,” Izzo shared. “I’m very disappointed in how we’ve played with the energy level (previously) and I was very proud in how we played with the energy level (against Indiana). We didn’t play great, it was a crazy game...I’ll take gritty over pretty.”
When asked about the switch up at the point guard position, where Izzo started Hoggard and brought Walker off of the bench for the first time this season, Izzo summed it up to a couple reasons.
“We made the change because of two reasons,” Izzo explained. “Slow starts and Tyson (Walker) the last five games has got 28 assists and seven turnovers. So, we felt that he could get more people involved. They (both) did a pretty good job...Our two point guards I thought played pretty good.”
Izzo called his team a work in progress still and mentioned that he got a lot of good minutes from a lot of different guys, and that he hopes that they can continue to get specifically Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks more minutes in the future.
“I did meet with every single kid and I tried to go over things and show them things on film and talk to them,” Izzo said. “Had some good meetings...really a lot of meetings with our point guards...I said I’m gonna change the lineup, I’ll change more guys if we don’t play with it. For whatever reason, they really banned together, too, today...We needed to get a gritty win.”
Hoggard stepped up to the podium next for questions.
When asked about the switch up in starting spot said. Hoggard said they all just followed the plan that Izzo had laid out.
“Me and Coach (Izzo) talked about it probably two days before the game,” Hoggard said. “We just had a conversation about switching things up. We wanted to see a different look. I was OK with it, Tyson (Walker) was OK with it, so we kind of just went with it and ran with it.”
When discussing all that went into the those meetings with Izzo, Hoggard explained that both he and Walker learned a lot.
“We got a lot out of it,” Hoggard said. “We pretty much were just talking about things we can do to help the team be better, especially with the two losses we took — always room for improvement. We just think with the point guard spot, it starts with us. Coach (Izzo) always says that if the head dies the body follows, and with us being the head we kind of got to just focus up...So we just talked about being focused more...being good in our role and continue to help the team win.”
Hoggard had no concrete comment about the technical fouls and basically just summed it up to a learning experience with a smile.
Last out in the postgame presser was Walker. Again, when talking through the change at the point guard spot, Walker really had only positive comments to give.
“Just going out there and being free,” Walker shared about his role of coming off the bench for the first time. “I haven’t played defense (like that), so me starting off and playing defense like that helps. Just having fun, knowing that I can pressure people like that...I think the mindset today was just different...It was perfectly fine with me...(I’m) always gonna be supportive no matter who’s starting, who’s playing. You got to do your job.”
Walker mentioned that coming in off the bench was different for him and it had been a while since he had done that in any game, even at his previous school. He stated that he got to play with some guys that he normally does not get many minutes with and that overall, “It was just a good day today.”
Walker summed up the differences between the Wisconsin game and the Indiana game by saying, “I felt like the Wisconsin game was kind of embarrassing — just by how much more physical it was today. Today we just were physical, bumping people, every cut we did hard, we were guarding, running, everything we did with a purpose. I think that’s what helps being tough, doing stuff with a purpose.”
From both Hoggard and Walker, it was evident that they are very connected to each other and that they were both happy with how Saturday’s game went. When each player was speaking at the podium, the other was in the crowd listening. Their comments and their presence really just gave off good energy.
Hopefully this win at home was just what the Spartans needed to pick back up with the momentum they carried earlier in the season. Based off the comments that Hall, Izzo, Hoggard and Walker shared tonight, the spirits and connectedness of this team are high. Whatever Coach Izzo and his staff did within those four days between the dreary Wisconsin loss to Saturday’s victory over Indiana seemed to work.