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March 18, 2012

Fast, slow, fast

Tom Izzo was happy to see his team take a punch -- lots of punches, in fact -- from a gritty Saint Louis team and land the last one. But he's OK if Louisville wants to go from gritty to pretty on Thursday in Phoenix.

    "Maybe we’ll get a couple teams going up and down,” Izzo said. “But we can play any way, we’ve played any way. That’s been a plus with our program for I think all 15 years (of NCAA Tournament play). We really can play a slugfest or speed. And I do enjoy both. Today I didn’t enjoy the slugfest as much, but when it’s over, it feels pretty good.”

    It felt good because Draymond Green capped a monster weekend (40, 25 and 16 in two games) by doing what star players are supposed to do when a game needs to be grasped. He did it with the pass to Nix, the pass to Appling, the tough fadeaway jumper, the stop and rebound right after that and the leaping pass to Appling for the bouncing 3-pointer right after that.

    This after Green had one of those halftime call-out moments with the rest of a team that doesn't have a lot of NCAA experience.

    “It was half over and he felt it slipping a little bit," Izzo said of Green's speech. "I wasn’t in there then, but you do what you’re supposed to do as a captain. You challenge people, and you know what? You’ve earned the respect and the right to challenge people if you’ve done your job for a year or two. And I’m telling you, when you can get players to do it, it hits home a little differently.”

    Of course, this wasn't just Green. Rick Majerus challenged Keith Appling -- sagging off him like no one has done this season -- and Appling made him pay.  Majerus equated it to a batter burning you after you intentionally walk someone to get to him. Izzo considered it a crucial development.

    “You can’t win much without your quarterback playing well," he said. "You can act like Day-Day can cover the world, but Keith’s got his hands on the ball a lot more than Day-Day does. Your quarterback’s got to play well and he’s usually got to defend some of the best people.

    "And you look ahead to next week, if our quarterback isn’t playing well, they’re gonna press us right off the floor, you know? And that (Peyton) Siva, that kid is quicker than greased lightning. So Keith, it’s very important, and it’s very important that Travis (Trice) gets better. I just thought our freshmen took some hits tonight, and yet that’s gonna make them better for next week. They’re gonna understand what being in a fistfight is, because that was a fistfight.”

    The Spartans walked away with some cuts, and Austin Thornton's neck was hurting him after that nasty spill to the floor. Brandan Kearney had a rough day, heard about it in explicit terms and took it hard on the bench.

    "I bet it's going to be one of the best learning experiences he has in his life," Izzo said, and winning a game like this may end up being just as valuable for this team, moving ahead in this tournament.

 

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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