January 20, 2010

Izzo wants team to strive for perfection

EAST LANSING - Michigan State is off to a perfect 6-0 start in Big Ten play, the best during the 15-year head coaching career of Tom Izzo. The the play of the No. 7 ranked Spartans in a 70-63 victory over Iowa was far from perfect.

"In championship years we have won one point games over Penn State and two-point games against Northwestern," said Izzo. "Somehow I've got to live with it. It was what it was and I don't want to take anything away from Iowa because if there was ever a team that looked well coached, the players played hard, and they didn't quit when they have been through a tough season, they were every one of those things. I give a lot of credit to them."

Izzo did less coaching during the game than he normally does. He wanted to see how his players handled themselves in the huddle and demonstrated leadership on the court.

The Spartan coach had hoped to see more ownership from his players. He was disappointed by the lack of maturity against an Iowa team that left the Breslin Center with a 1-5 mark in Big Ten play and a 7-12 overall record.

Hawkeye coach Todd Lickliter felt that Michigan State took its foot off the pedal in the second half. Izzo had preached all week long to his players about keeping their foot on an opponent's throat and closing out games.

The Spartans held a 19-point lead midway through the second half of play before Iowa clawed its way back into the contest. Triples by Eric May and Matt Gatens cut Michigan State's advantage to three points, 64-61, at the two-minute mark. Korie Lucious seized control of momentum for the Spartans when he drove to the basket and finished with a lay-up that gave Michigan State a 66-61 lead. Four made free throws by Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green sealed the win for the Spartans.

"Players don't like to hear what they do wrong and sometimes they like to work themselves out of it," Izzo said. "I let them work themselves out of it. I was really looking forward to this game to answer questions about the maturation process. Are we starting to make it? I guess we are back to baby bottles and diapers. We have some work to do."

Michigan State lacked the passion and urgency Izzo has seen in his great teams.

"I don't want any more fool's gold," said Izzo. "I want this team to start growing up and playing with a sense of urgency and passion. If every reporter is asking me about it and you are seeing it as a reporter, think what I must be seeing as a coach… We are not where we need to be. We are 6-0 and there are some teams with worse problems than we have. Am I looking for perfection? You're damn right. And I am not going to stop until we get it."


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