March 23, 2009

VIDEO: Players reflect on dramatic win over USC

MINNEAPOLIS - Throughout the course of the 2008-2009 season, third-year captain Travis Walton has made it clear that he does not want to be the first four-year player recruited by Spartan head coach Tom Izzo not to reach a Final Four.

During Michigan State's 74-69 win over Pac-10 tournament champion Southern California, Walton not only contributed on defense but he also led the No. 2 seeded Spartans in scoring with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Walton was left open by design as USC sought to bottle up Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas.

"Walton played exceptionally well for them," said USC coach Tim Floyd.He surprised us with his ability to make 17-foot jump shots."
Trojan wing Dwight Lewis echoed his coach.

"We were kind of caught off guard with that," Dwight said. "You know, he is a good player and had a great ability to get to the basket. But we didn't think he could knock down a 17-foot jump shot consistently, and he proved us wrong today."

Walton did not start off red hot. He made the first shot he took, but then missed the next two. But Walton did not lose confidence in himself. Neither did his teammates.

"Kalin just came up to me and told me to keep shooting," said Walton. "He said it is okay if you miss because we have trust in you. And I just kept shooting and they started falling."

Lucas led the team with 7 assists with just one turnover. Michigan State finished the game with 20 assists on 22 field goals.

"One of the things that they did do is face guard me," said Lucas. "When I did get by a defender and they collapse in the paint, I was able to kick the ball out to Travis, Durrell, or Chris."

Walton's performance was inspirational to his teammates.

"You can't ask anything more from Trav, he was amazing today," explained Spartan freshman Delvon Roe. "He brings it every day in practice, he brings it on defense, he brings it on the court and off the court. To have him shooting the ball the way he did was a huge plus."

Durrell Summers and Chris Allen combined for 19 points and played 26 minutes and 24 minutes respectively.

"I felt good coming into this game," said Summers, who finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds. "The coaches talked to me about things that I could have been doing wrong, and they said it was just as simple as getting more lift. In the practice that we had, I worked on getting more lift in my shot and they started falling again. I went into this game confident and the coaches wanted me to shoot. That is what I did."

Allen scored 8 points and added 3 assists, including a feed to freshman Delvon Roe, who threw down a thunderous dunk. The sophomore from Georgia believes that the Spartans are a Final Four caliber basketball team when both he and Summers are playing well at the same time.

"It was big time," said Allen. "In the second half we were going through a little bit of a slump and we weren't really scoring and then I came down and hit a three and Durrell came down and hit a three and Kalin came down and scored and that was eight quick points right there."

After scoring a 16 points in Michigan State's first-round win over Robert Morris, Michigan State got another strong performance from freshman Draymond Green, who scored 7 points and pulled down 9 rebounds during 24 minutes.

"I live for moments like that to be in clutch situations, where I have to make big time plays" said Green.

One of the biggest plays was a defensive rebound on which Green was hacked by Gibson, who picked up his fifth. After sending Gibson to the bench, Green made some big free throws down the stretch to ensure that Michigan State advanced.

"That's just what I do, come out and play physical and bring energy," said Green. "I may have played more physical today because I know that was at stake and that I needed to give it all and give a 110 percent."

Green's split at the stripe tied the game at the 8:09 mark in the second half. Green put Michigan State up by five points with another split with 13 seconds left.

"Travis came up to me and told me that I needed to knock down my free throws," explained Green. "He told me that I needed to my city on the map and rep all of the Spartan dawgs. I had to go up there with tremendous heart. I missed the first one barely. I looked over at coach and he told me to stick it and I knocked the second one down."

OTHER NOTES

LII Love You Man: As Michigan State players came off the court following their win over Southern Cal, Izzo hugged Lucas and told him that he loved him. Lucas told Izzo that he loved him too.
"One thing about me and coach is that we do have a great relationship," Lucas explained.

  • Green Monster: During his post-game interview outside the locker room, Izzo told local reporters that he was going to pull Green out of the game late and replace him with either Allen or Summers. That was before Walton told Izzo to keep Green in the game. Izzo followed his player's advice.

  • On Lock Down: Southern Cal's man in the middle, Gibson is beast on the class and in the paint. But the Pac-10's leading rebounder and the Trojan's leading scorer was kept under lock and key by the Spartan defense. Gibson's three points against Michigan State was the second lowest point total of the season for Gibson who has only had five games where he didn't score at least 10 points.


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