It may not look like it was that close of a game with a final score of 64-53, but trust me, it was a truly close call on Tuesday night for head coach Tom Izzo and his Spartans down in Ohio.
Izzo was a mere assistant with MSU 22 years ago when the Bowling Green Falcons stomped upon a top-10 Michigan State team and shocked the NCAA world–something coach Izzo has yet to forget. Perhaps that’s why before his players even took a single step onto the court Tuesday, Izzo had flashbacks to haunting memories of that fateful day.
“Behind closed doors I was worried to death about this game,” Izzo said. “I really was.”
By the start of the second half, with the Spartans struggling to keep their heads above water, it looked like Izzo had good reason to be nervous.
“If we’re going to be a good team, we have to come here and win this game,” Izzo told reporters concerning his thought process on the overall outcome.
With only 10 minutes left in the game, the Falcons’ Chauncey Orr tied it up at 45 and history, as it seemed at the time, looked doomed to repeat itself for the boys in Green and White.
Enter the Michigan State defense.
Once again, it was a harrowing performance down the stretch by Izzo’s boys in the back court that saved the day for the Spartans and allowed the team to avoid another embarrassment at the hands of a Mid-American Conference program. Michigan State finished the final minutes of the game with a 14-2 run, ignited by Branden Dawson’s dunk after a steal for MSU.
Garry Harris and Denzel Valentine scored 12 points each in the match up and Dawson added 10 of his own, all to lead the Spartans down the stretch for the victory.
Some have questioned Izzo’s penchant for putting his team in harm’s way by bringing them into some incredibly-tough environments, but the coach defended his actions quite elaborately.
“I’ll probably keep doing it because I’m dumb,” he said.
All joking aside, Izzo is smart to continually-challenge his players by playing in hostile environments. The last time Michigan State played at Bowling Green in 1990, they suffered a tremendous upset at the hands of the Falcons and then-coach Jud Heathcote swore the Spartans would never return.
Izzo has proven time and time again that no team is off-limits to his players… and sometimes, it doesn’t always end quite well on the scoreboards. This time, luckily, it did.
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