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January 26, 2010

Look familiar?

Does this MSU team and star remind you at all of a well-documented former MSU team and star -- a team that won a lot of ugly games and a star with a penchant for hitting the shots to win them?

    Let's ask Tom Izzo.
    “Everybody, we all think that every game we won was easy," he said of the 1998-2000 stretch led by Mateen Cleaves. "It wasn’t. Sometimes even I forget that."
    Add another flash-bulb shot to Kalin Lucas' collection. And another classic to this series -- the first one, really, since MSU's win here in 2004. Another terrific performance to Raymar Morgan's string. Another example of how far Chris Allen's defense has come in a year. Another example of how turnovers are the Spartans' biggest issue.
    Another footprint for this team (best Big Ten start, unprecedented 12th win in 13 road games), and another brick in the wall for the rest of the Big Ten. How many expletives came hurling from Lafayette, Madison and Columbus tonight when DeShawn Sims' shot lipped out?
    On that play: Dwayne Stephens called it in MSU's huddle. In scouting U-M, he saw the play recently against Indiana, and he drew it up for the players. Stu Douglass got off a fantastic pass around Tom Herzog, and Sims had a good look. Durrell Summers had a brief handful of jersey, too, but Sims said he didn't expect a foul to be called at that point in the game. He was right.
    On MSU's winning play: The coaching staff was talking more about what Lucas said in the huddle than what he did on the court. He suggested a play (in the event that U-M played man-to-man) with an option for him or Morgan to take the shot. Lucas has not done that much in his time at MSU.
    Lucas also asked Izzo to put him in the middle of the zone, so he could get around Sims and make plays. It worked well on some key possessions.
    "I fall in love with guys that want to coach the team," Izzo said.
    Mike Garland told the story tonight of the win over Iowa State in 2000. Everyone knows about the lob play ("Screen Re-screen") that Cleaves and Peterson called to go ahead. But earlier, Cleaves and the players complained about an Izzo play to get Peterson a shot, with MSU down three.
    Cleaves wanted a play for Andre Hutson. Izzo obliged, Hutson scored and MSU was on its way. Garland said tonight reminded him of that game in a way.
    "You know what I saw?" Garland said. "I saw our kids look for things. That's what good teams do."
    This one is still a pretty hefty distance from playing its best basketball. But we've heard that kind of thing before around here.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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