March 22, 2012
Izzo: 'We ran out of gas tonight'
PHOENIX - Michigan State has done more in 2011-2012 with less talent than most years under Spartan coach Tom Izzo.
But Michigan State's lack of horsepower caught up with the Big Ten regular-season co-champion and Big Ten tournament champion in a Sweet 16 match-up with Louisville.
"It has been a year where we had to play at such a high level," said Izzo following his team's 57-44 loss to Louisville on Thursday. "We ran out of gas tonight."
Izzo was complimentary of Louisville. But the Spartan head coach felt that much of what went wrong against the Cardinals was self-inflicted.
"I have to give them credit, I want to," said Izzo. "They outplayed us, but I have never seen us play that poorly. All-around, we just didn't (play well) and yet we were still in it."
Izzo was disappointed that his team turned the ball over 15 times against the No. 4 seed Cardinals.
"I thought that we made some of the most foolish turnovers," Izzo said. "But we turn the ball over inbounding the ball three times. One time, we threw it into the stands. You've never seen that from us ever. I just felt like it was a total wear down."
Louisville shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Cardinals' top 3-point shooter Kyle Kuric made just one of the five 3-pointers he attempted against the Spartans. Louisville benefited from unlikely 3-pointers by Gorgui Deng and Jared Swopshire.
"A guy hits a three that is 3-for-20 and another guy hits a three that has never hit one," said Izzo. "They made eight shots (in the first half) and seven of them were threes. Three were by guys where it is not legal for them to make them. A cop should be arresting those guys."
The disappointment resulting from his team's loss to Louisville will not prevent Izzo from enjoying what his 2012-2013.
"We have to really think about why we lost it so we capture that and use it next year," said Izzo, "but I really want to enjoy these seniors because the job that they did was unbelievable this year and made my job much easier. In fact, I think people enjoyed watching them. I think that people appreciated who they were and what they were. I think Derrick Nix said it best, that those seniors showed us the way we were supposed to play.
"Senior days and days like that are one of the hardest things about this job, especially if you have respect and appreciation for the guys doing it. They did so much, so much for me that it was hard. And yet, it was hard to feel bad too because we just didn't play well, not one guy. Draymond rebounded well, but in general not one guy played well. I almost thing that we didn't do as good a job coaching because of the fact that we looked so tired. Maybe it was too much time laying around, maybe it was too much time out here."
Michigan State lack of energy was not the result of taking Louisville lightly.
"It wasn't a lack of caring," said Izzo. "It just looked like the wind was taken out of their sails. I think that is the hard part of having a team that has to play at such a high level and never can really have an average game and win. When you are not as talented, you can't have an average game and win. That is what it looked like to me. We looked a little bit mentally and physically beat up out there."
Sophomore point guard Keith Appling struggled against Louisville, the point where the McDonald's All-American was visibly more shaken than most of his teammates during postgame interviews.
"That is the problem with being the point guard," said Izzo. "The quarterback always gets blamed for everything. He struggled tonight, he did. After he hit that first three I thought it would be a good night for him. But they put pressure on him and I had to leave him in there a lot. It wasn't all Keith's fault. I thought he let it get to him a little bit, the bumping and things like that. We tried to tell him, but we couldn't simulate it either. We just didn't have the people to simulate that kind of thing."
Izzo feels much differently about Michigan State's loss to Louisville in the 2012 NCAA Tournament than he did a year ago when an under-achieving Spartan ballclub fell to UCLA in the first round of the 2011 tourney.
"I have an appreciation (for this team)," Izzo said. "Last year was a hard year as everybody knows for a variety of reasons. This year was a hard year because we weren't as talented. But it was an easy year because it was so much fun to coach them and I had a leader that was phenomenal and Austin (Thornton) played through the pain of headaches. He was phenomenal. We mixed and matched guys and I said before that this was an athletic region and you look back and Delvon and Dawson, there just isn't anything you can do about that. I mean we might not have won it if Kenyon Martin does not go down. It happens to other people too, it's not just us. I couldn't be prouder. My son is named after Mateen and we all know why. But I couldn't be prouder of the team because Mateen had more people around him. Draymond did not have the veterans around him or the talent around him and he still found away to get us some incredible things this year. This will be one were the footsteps or footprints that I always talk about, there will be a pretty good footprint I will be able to use for teams in the future."
Izzo knew during his team's walkthrough before playing Louisville in 2009 that his team would cut down the nets. He did not feel the same confidence on Thursday.
"I didn't know we were going to lose," said Izzo, "but I didn't feel nearly as good which is good for me because I am still reading things right and not getting senile. It is a bad thing for me too because I am able to predict the future and that is kind of scary at times."
Izzo hopes that the players he has coming back will carry on the legacy of seniors like Green and Thornton.
"That is going to be the pressure on Nix and Payne and Appling," said Izzo. "Are they ready to rise up. I explained that to them afterward. But like I said before, Nix thanked those guys afterward for showing him how it was supposed to be and that is something that we didn't have last year. They know how to do it, but knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. But at least they are on the right road and they know that it takes."
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