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January 12, 2012

That'll leave a mark

Tough night for the Hoosiers. The Indiana women lost at Breslin Center (67-47, setting up a big one Sunday at Breslin with Ohio State in at 4 p.m.) as expected. The Indiana men fell at home to Minnesota, as few expected. That's an early hit to the title chances of the Hoosiers, who must play at Ohio State at 4:30 Sunday.

    Meanwhile, Bo Ryan's Badgers got off the mat at Purdue, where they never win. That leaves Michigan and Illinois as the only one-loss teams in the league behind MSU. It leaves me wondering how many twists this race has in it before we get to March.

    Before these things happened, I got to check out MSU practicing in preparation for Northwestern. Two things to report from the action on the floor. One, Alex Gauna and Brandan Kearney continue to impress in their push for minutes.

    “Last week in practice he started rebounding it very, very well," Izzo said tonight of Gauna. "If he (does) that, he’s been shooting it about as good as any big guy we’ve had. So I’m really pleased with Gauna.”

    Two, Keith Appling had a soaring tomahawk dunk that I'd bet a handful of point guards in college basketball might try.

    Also, I'd venture to say that Tom Izzo is borderline giddy about how this team is focusing, practicing, preparing. At some point this season, we'll see how the Spartans handle losing. The Big Ten always makes sure everyone gets a taste of that. At this point, Izzo likes how his players have handled success.

    He was presented with the "fat and sassy" question tonight.

    “I’m afraid I do but I don’t think I do," he said of having to worry about that. "What I mean by that is, normally I would, but Day-Day and Austin have done a pretty good job of taking care of most of that.”

    They bring up other teams. Pittsburgh and its nosedive, for example. Wisconsin, looking strong and on the verge of the top 10, then suddenly three ugly losses. They remind the younger players of how much basketball remains to be played.

    “Are you gonna build on (the start) or are you gonna pat yourself on the back?" Izzo said. "It depends on how small or big your goals are.”

    I've received a  few questions this week on Dane Fife and his early impact at MSU. Here's what Izzo said about Fife earlier in the week, with more to come later in the season on the assistants.

    “I think the best part of his maturation has been, to be honest with you, his relationship with D.J. (Dwayne Stephens) and Mike (Garland)," Izzo said of Fife. "That’s very critical on staffs and I think he knew that D.J.’s a guy that’s been here forever and played here. And I swear to you, he spent more time in D.J.’s office early. And they have an understanding together. And then he brings a little bit more youth to the players, where sometimes they can relate.

    "And they can relate to both. He’s been a coach but they can relate to that he played in a Final Four. Because it wasn’t that long ago. I think that’s helped him. And I think his understanding of me and our program. He’s followed it, he brought his staff up here a few times. It’s been good. I think on the other side of it, his playing for Bob (Knight) has helped. His being a head coach has helped. His playing for Mike Davis has helped. Because you have a different perspective of different people. And it’s helped me learn a little bit more, the spacing, motion stuff and things like that. So yeah, it’s been good for us.”

    This is now the last place on the Internet to see Nick Hill's new tattoo, and Obi-Wan Schneider has some questions and the link. Looks cool, but ouch. Hope Hill's metabolism never does what mine did, so many years ago.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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