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February 06, 2011

'If you're not writing us off, I'll thank you and call you a fool'

I'll be interested to know what you thought of MSU's performance in an 82-56 loss at Wisconsin today. The people who cover this team on the road all thought the Spartans played pretty solid defense for most of the day. Tom Izzo said MSU's effort was "10 times" better than its effort at Iowa, and he also said that "everything was great" but the final score, including the way his players interacted and kept competing.

    The Badgers put on one of the great shooting displays I've witnessed. Jordan Taylor was Kobe-like in his ability to convert off-balance shots with defenders draped all over him.

    Still, it's a 26-point loss for a team that should be in no "mock" NCAA brackets come Monday. MSU was not good on offense, which was the bigger problem Sunday. This team is reeling and lacking confidence. So if you turned off the TV early and swore off the Spartans for the rest of the season, you're probably not alone.

    “Everybody’s writing us off,” Draymond Green said. “And if you’re not writing us off, I’ll thank you and call you a fool. But we’re gonna keep trying to turn this around.”

    Izzo thinks this team still has a chance to do so.

    "We're gonna find a way to win some games yet," he said.

    * Delvon Roe said he came off the bench because he was late to a team meeting. He also insisted that his right knee is fine even though he looks markedly less mobile in the past couple weeks. Izzo said the knee is bothering Roe "a little bit" but also said the need to sit him out in some practices as a precaution may be hindering him as well.

    "He's not the same guy he was two weeks ago," Izzo said.

    * Nix has had much to say in the past week. He said before Sunday's game that it would determine whether the "signed commitment" the Spartans made to each other on Thursday is genuine or not.

    “The commitment is real,” Nix declared after Sunday’s loss. “They just hit some big shots. We stuck together and didn’t quit.”

    Asked about all the talk in the past week of leadership, Izzo said his players "showed some character and didn't start complaining and start bitching" when things went south Sunday. And he liked what he saw from Kalin Lucas.

    “I think he’s really made a commitment that he’s gonna finish this thing out strong,” Izzo said of Lucas. “So I was probably happiest with him.”

    Brutal honesty is usually what we get from Izzo after games. The guy was extremely positive after this one. Is he just trying to talk himself into it? Has he decided to stop airing the laundry? He did say is going to keep more things "in-house" in the wake of the past week. He said he has "learned a ton" from all the losing and its effects in the past month. But it appears he really saw some encouraging things in the locker room, on the bench and even on the floor.

    “We all stuck together,” Draymond Green said. “And coach, he’s gonna stick with us through the good and the bad.”

    * Stat of the day: This is the earliest MSU has reached the 10-loss mark since the 1987-88 season. The Spartans got No. 10 on Jan. 27, 1988 that season. That was a really bad team -- post-Skiles and just before Steve Smith started turning things around -- that finished 10-18. Just think, without several late-game escapes this season, MSU could be looking at a similar record.

    * With 20 points, Kalin Lucas moved past Terry Furlow and into seventh place on MSU's all-time scoring list. Lucas has 1,782 career points. He is now 69 points behind Sam Vincent (1,851) for sixth place.

    * Jordan Taylor, who is the No. 2 player in the Big Ten right now behind Jared Sullinger, said he thought "15 to 20" of Wisconsin's 39 shots were closely contested by the Spartans. MSU definitely made some mistakes and gave up some layups on slips to the basket here and there, but I think the Spartans were in position to defend shots for most of the day. Still, this team is allowing 54.5 overall and 50.5 from 3-point range in the past six games. Straight-up bad defense is a big part of the equation there.

    * Izzo was asked about the late 3-pointer from Ben Brust, which some may perceive as a "rubbing it in" moment -- especially considering the history of this place, Bo Ryan, Izzo and "rubbing it in" moments. But Izzo said this was nothing like the Devin Harris-to-Alando Tucker lob dunk in 2003 at the buzzer of a game already decided. He said he had no problems with it, especially since it was a chance for a seldom-used reserve to have a big moment.

    * We shall not speak again until a week from Monday. I am on company-ordered furlough for the next week. I will give Denny Schwarze the keys to this place, so he'll keep the discussion going and he'll cover the MSU-Penn State game on Thursday. A final thought as I go: It may sound crazy, but I think if this team beats the Nittany Lions it still has a chance -- not a great chance, but a chance -- of getting things turned around enough to get an NCAA bid. There, now you can direct your venom at me!

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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