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Notes & Quotes: Michigan State “earned” its win “from the get-go” over Purdue

Purdue v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Michigan State men’s basketball team was looking to break out of a slump — losing five of its last six games — and hosted No. 4 Purdue at the Breslin Center on Saturday afternoon.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Spartans defeated the Boilermakers in dramatic fashion, winning by a final score of 68-65, thanks to a game-winning shot by point guard Tyson Walker.

The victory also marked Tom Izzo’s 662nd career win, which tied him with legendary Indiana head coach Bob Knight for most total career wins at one Big Ten school.

Following the exciting contest, Purdue head coach Matt Painter, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and several Michigan State players spoke to the media.

Painter credited Michigan State’s performance, but wasn’t happy with Purdue’s turnovers (17), and said the Boilermakers did not create enough possessions for themselves.

When Painter was asked about Izzo tying Knight’s record, he had this to say:

“Yeah, it’s a big deal (for Izzo to tie Knight),” Painter remarked. “When we were growing up, I grew up in Indiana, (Bob Knight) was it. He was the best coach in America, he was the best clinician, him, Hubie Brown, Larry Brown, those guys were just spectacular...So, to pass an icon like that is huge, and (Izzo) is an icon. And it’s staying at one place, too, which I’m fond of. I just like the fact that (Izzo) could have went a lot of places and he didn’t. And, you know, the Big Ten was able to get that reward.

“Any time you can have consistency — it’s a hard thing to do — especially in 14 different schools, how can you be consistent and be great, when you’re upsetting the applecart after three seasons if somebody doesn’t win enough games and stuff like that?

“That’s pretty cool (to tie Knight),” Painter later added. “Congratulations to (Izzo). I just wish it wasn’t at our expense.”

As for Izzo himself, he was just happy his team was able to get the win over a top-five program after the Spartans’ recent struggles.

“I tell you, any time you play Purdue, you earn your win,” Izzo said. “I would say that I have great respect for Matt (Painter), his program, I think (Purdue) is still the best team in the league, but today (Saturday) we earned our win. It wasn’t lucky, I thought we earned it from the get-go — start to the finish.”

As for tying Knight for the all-time wins record at a Big Ten school, Izzo understands the significance of the feat, however, he wasn’t giving it too much thought in the moment. When asked about his emotions after the big win, Izzo was simply just excited for his players and staff.

“You know, it wasn’t at all,” Izzo said about whether or not his emotions walking off the court were related to tying Bob Knight’s record. “It was just enjoying our crowd, enjoying our players, getting a chance to celebrate a little bit. I did forget to say, Gabe (Brown) hitting those first couple of shots and the ball going through the basket, it makes you better defensively.

“Those are the same shots we’ve been missing. I know it had nothing to do with Bob (Knight), it really didn’t. I don’t say that with humility. I say it with we need to win a game and we needed to win a game the way we won the game.”

The crowd at the Breslin Center energized the Spartans

Izzo was incredibly pleased with the crowd. The Izzone and the rest of fans in the stands brought energy, noise and momentum all game long, and Izzo thought that helped his team.

“Heroes, we had a bunch of them,” Izzo said. “I would go from least minutes to most, that might have been anyone, the crowd was one of the heroes, they were unbelievable tonight. It felt like old times, Mateen (Cleaves) said that in the locker room (after the game), Tuck (Mel Tucker was in The Izzone), it just felt like the way we used to play and the way our crowd used to react.”

When asked specifically about Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker’s participation in The Izzone, Izzo told the media this gem of a quote:

“(Tucker) told me before the game he was going to do it, and I said, ‘Mel, Jud (Heathcote) always said the game makes fools of us all, so enjoy being a fool for a day.’ I thought it was great.”

Mady Sissoko and Julius Marble stepping up

Izzo also credited center Mady Sissoko, who gave the Spartans about four minutes of infectious energy and hustle, despite only scoring one point. In fact, forward Gabe Brown said that Sissoko is usually a very quiet guy, and this was the first game he had ever heard Sissoko yell.

“Don’t underestimate what Mady (Sissoko) did, Mady brought something and the team just rallied around him,” Izzo said.

Sissoko wasn’t the only player who caught Izzo’s attention. Center Julius Marble II drew the start for just the second time this season, and Izzo was pleased with the junior’s performance.

“Julius (Marble) helps us because he’s strong, tough and a man, and very smart,” Izzo said.

Marble, and Sissoko while he was in there, along with fellow center Marcus Bingham Jr., had the tough task of guarding Purdue’s two-headed monster in the post — Zach Edey (7-foot-4) and Trevion Williams (6-foot-10).

Gabe Brown, when he was walking up to the podium, was praising Marble the entire time, saying, “Y’all see big (Julius Marble) fight? He was fighting that 7-foot-4 dude (Edey), (all game).”

While Edey (25 points) and Williams (11 points) scored a good amount, the Spartans stuck to the game plan and ultimately got the win.

“It was tough (to guard Edey),” Marble said. “I mean the whole game was pretty much a battle. I knew he was going to get some shots because he’s just so much taller than me, but my goal was to make it harder for him to get those shots. I kind of felt like I did that, but our game plan wasn’t to double (team) because with the shooters, we would leave the shooters wide open. So, he had more points than he would have, but I did the best I could to make it hard on him.”

Marble, who said he was a bit “nervous” getting the start, felt he started a little bit slow, but then found his footing and played well. Overall, Marble was just happy to help his team win over a top-five team.

“It was a tough win, it was a Spartan win,” Marble said. “That’s how we play — we play tough, we’re gonna get the rebound, we play hard, it’s gonna be a fight. I think we did that (Saturday), we haven’t been doing that the last couple games, and I felt like we actually fought (against Purdue).”

Tyson Walker’s game-winning shot

As for Walker’s game-winning three-pointer, the play Izzo drew up was of course meant for Walker, but the Spartans actually had three different scoring options to try to win the game if Walker was covered.

“Well, (Tyson Walker’s) been shooting well, but we wanted the ball in his hands because we thought he could get a shot,” Izzo said. “In all honesty, I thought they might switch out, so we had Joey (Hauser) popping and we had Malik (Hall) rolling up, it was three options on the play. When (Walker) came off, he was open enough and give him credit, he knocked it down.”

Izzo also mentioned Walker’s growth as a player and a person since transferring to Michigan State from Northeastern.

“(At the pregame meal), I said to (Walker), ‘You’ve grown up a lot,’” Izzo said. “Early in the year, if you said boo to him, he didn’t handle it very well, to be very honest with you and he’s made a lot of progress where those things don’t even faze him anymore.

“I think what I enjoy, I think he’s growing as a man,” Izzo later added about Walker. “He’s able to handle things, and that’s been good.”

Walker also spoke about the shot, and he knew it was good right away.

“Good,” Walker said matter-of-factly when asked what his game-winning shot looked like after he attempted it. “That shot right there is how I’ve always done that move since I was a freshman in high school. So, I just knew it was good.”

In fact, Walker was confident even before Michigan State’s possession that he was going to win it for the Spartans. He also said the game-winner was “easily number one” in terms of his career shots.

“Well, I just knew if (Purdue) scored, in my head, I’m like ‘If they score, I’m going to come down and make a shot’ because I felt the same way when we played Illinois. But they scored that time. Today (Saturday), I’m going to make a big shot and we are going to win the game.”

Walker’s point guard running mate, A.J. Hoggard, also had supreme confidence in him.

“I told (Walker), ‘Take us home,’ flat out. Hoggard said. “I believe in him, so I trusted him, and I knew he was gonna get it done, and he came through like he did.”

Gabe Brown and Max Christie pulling out of their slumps

As mentioned, Izzo was ecstatic for his guys to pull out the win, but he was especially happy for Brown, who Izzo said he was “happiest for,” and freshman shooting guard Max Christie. Both players had been going through a shooting slump entering Saturday’s game.

“I’m just happy for Gabe (Brown),” Izzo said. “He works so hard at what he does and it means a lot when the ball goes in. He did some other things today and I was happy for him and I was happy, too, for Max (Christie).”

Brown told the media that he and Christie had been working out together all week to try to help pull each other out of their respective slumps.

When commenting on his recent shooting woes, Brown had this to say:

“I always work on my shot each and every day, and I did have a little slump of my own,” Brown said. “Like I always say, the work is always gonna show up, and I just kept shooting. My teammates kept finding me, and I kept believing in my shot.”

Overall, like the rest of his coaches and teammates, Brown was happy to get a team victory.

“We needed a win,” Brown said. “I got tired of losing. We’ve been in close games, and we haven’t been able to finish, and I just wanted to go out and get a big win. I know I’ve got to bring energy; I got to be the guy each and every night to encourage my guys and lead, and that’s what I wanted to do today.”

Izzo has tremendous respect for Matt Painter and Purdue

Izzo is well aware of Purdue’s standing in the Big Ten, not just this season, but year-in and year-out.

“There’s some good teams in this league, but over 25 years, nobody plays harder than Purdue on a regular basis,” Izzo said. “It didn’t matter if Gene (Keady) was there, it doesn’t matter if Matt’s (Painter) there, to win a game against a team like that, you just plug in the individual players. The program stands for that, which I think for the most part ours has too.”

Painter and Izzo have a mutual respect for each other and the programs they have each built.

“When I look back at the years and that includes when Jud (Heathcote) was there, I mean, there were some battles, and Matt Painter, I think, is one of the best,” Izzo said. “I’ve got to call him a young coach now, but he’s one of the best. I mean, he does it. He’s involved with every committee. He’s really good for the game of basketball, and I still think he has the best team.”

A.J. Hoggard’s leadership and defense

Izzo also noted that he was happy with the job Hoggard and Christie did defensively on Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. Additionally, Izzo said Hoggard has “some young Mateen (Cleaves) in him.”

Hoggard, who played a big role in forcing Ivey to turn it over five times, stepped up and took it upon himself to shut down Ivey, but also just wanted to do whatever he could to help MSU win.

“I just thought I came in and tried to do my job,” Hoggard said. “My job was to try and slow (Ivey) down and that was my focus coming in this whole week. I thought I did a good job of that tonight. But that was just my focus of winning, anything for my team to help us win.”

Hoggard also mentioned how getting stops defensively was a key to starting the transition game on offense for the Spartans, and a big part of the win.

Can Michigan State build off of this momentum?

Izzo also commented on his team actually winning the turnover battle, a rare feat for the Spartans: “Isn’t it sad that I have to say (10 turnovers) is ‘good?’” Izzo said. But he was pleased with his team finally forcing some “turnovers for touchdowns.”

The question for Michigan State now is, can the Spartans build off of the big win, and still struggle to finish off the season with the postseason looming?

“I think this will give us some confidence moving forward, but we’ve got to play,” Izzo said. “We’re still not talented enough to overcome a bunch of mistakes. We have to play; our line is very fine and that’s OK. It’s been that way a lot of years.”

Overall, the biggest thing for Izzo, his staff and his players was getting back on the right track.

“I’m really happy for our guys, (the recent stretch of losses) has been hard on them,” Izzo said.

“I’ve said, this is a good team and it might be a very good team if we could put everything together,” Izzo added.

Tom Izzo’s Full Remarks

Tyson Walker’s Full Remarks

Gabe Brown’s Full Remarks

AJ Hoggard’s Full Remarks

Julius Marble’s Full Remarks

Matt Painter’s Full Remarks