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December 2, 2010DURHAM, N.C. - Midway through the second half of Michigan State's game at Duke on Wednesday night, Tom Izzo sensed the Blue Devils wilting a little bit, and saw openings in Duke's transition defense.
Izzo jumped up and down, with his arm doing windmill circles, imploring senior guard Kalin Lucas to accelerate and push the break.
But instead, Lucas eased up and ran with the flow of the traffic, rather than sprint past it.
Izzo didn't yell, didn't get angry. He understood. The lightning-fast version of Lucas still is not available.
"I thought Kalin really looked tired to me," Izzo said. "The travel sort of gets to him a little bit."
Lucas underwent surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon in late March. He sat out for roughly six months in the spring, summer and part of the fall.
Lucas had 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, with 2 assists and 2 turnovers. He was solid, but unspectacular. Izzo saw openings that the old Lucas would have exploited. But both Lucas and Izzo are being forced to be patient and wait for the 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year to regenerate.
In addition to lacking his top gear of acceleration, Lucas still is not near mid-season form in terms of cardiovascular conditioning.
"As far as speed, you can see that Kalin doesn't have that back yet," Izzo said. "He'll get that back. You know what? We will still be a team to be reckoned with down the road. It will just be farther down the road than I thought."
Meanwhile, Izzo has seen his team give up 30 points to UConn roadrunner Kemba Walker and 31 to Duke freshman point guard extraordinaire Kyrie Irving.
"I just don't see that jet speed out of him that I have seen out of these other guards (that we have played), and that's to be expected," Izzo said.
Lucas admitted frustration after the game, but was not down at all.
"It's still going to take me some time to get back and recover all the way, my quickness, and me trying to explode," Lucas said. "There were times where it was there, and then times it wasn't there. I will just try to keep getting better day by day.
"It is frustrating. This game, and we play Syracuse next, and we played UConn already, so these are important games and I'm not totally recovered. But at the same times, I am going to keep trying to do the best for me and my team."
With Lucas playing without full horsepower, Korie Lucious stepped forward with one of the best games of his career. Lucious had 20 points and 8 assists, enjoying the ability to beat Duke's pressure defenders with terrific crossover dribbles and penetration moves.
"I think when Kalin is able to come all the way back we could be close to unstoppable," Lucious said.