As the #4 Michigan State Spartans head towards their rematch with the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday night, no doubt this game is even more significant than just another game. The 16-1 (3-1) Spartans were handed their only loss of the season at the hands of the Hawkeyes minus star player Denzel Valentine and just one day after their head coach Tom Izzo had lost his father. Izzo acknowledge the intensity of this week.
Izzo wasnâ€™t done talking about the Hawkeyes, â€œInteresting week, you know. Itâ€™s trying to keep perspective on everything right now. Weâ€™ve won three games, weâ€™ve on two of them handily, but we have not played the upper echelon. The one upper echelon team we played we got beat, so thereâ€™s a reality to this whole thing. Itâ€™s gonna be a tough week and a tough two weeks ahead for us when you look at a Thursday-Sunday, Wednesday-Saturday tilt and a couple more still on the road.â€
He added about the team from Iowa City, â€œIowa, as everybody knows is probably playing as well as anybody in the league. You can go into Purdue and you can beat Michigan State, theyâ€™ve played very well. I donâ€™t think anybody should think that loss was because Valentine wasnâ€™t with us. To be honest with you, that loss was because we played as poorly, and they had something to do with it. We did not play with the energy and effort that should be expected by you, me, or our fans with our team. Every loose ball we didnâ€™t get as I said that night. Watching the film again, but we just didnâ€™t do the little things that it takes to win. And I think weâ€™ve changed some but I also think the level of competition has changed a little bit.
The Spartans got their star Valentine back this weekend vs. Penn State and will probably have him back in the starting lineup on Thursday. Izzo said, â€œValentine is gonna be a big factor for us moving forward but at the same time we have to play better as the rest of our group. As far as Iowa goes, little odd to play them for the second time in a two-week period. Iâ€™m not a fan of that but itâ€™s gonna happen to all of us throughout the year and itâ€™s just the way it works out. The conference has to do what it has to do to keep all the other things in place like how many road games in a row you play and things like that, but it is odd. The other side of it, the game is still fresh in everybodyâ€™s mind. We know what we did wrong, we know what we didnâ€™t accomplish. The scouting report is gonna be similar so there will be some plusses to the minuses. Obviously our guys need to play better but Uthof didnâ€™t play well against us either. He was in foul trouble, though half our team was in foul trouble with Forbes and Harris especially going out in the first half. So I think both teams are playing better than we played in that game and Fran has done a heck of a job with his team. I think theyâ€™ve got the most veteran team maybe in the conference as far as starters and guys that have played. I said I thought Clemons was a big addition into that lineup and I thought he helped them, even though if you look at him stat-wise heâ€™s kind of their Travis Walton. He just does things to help them win that doesnâ€™t go in the stat sheet. But at the same time I think getting Gavin back now a little bit more has helped. I think Marv is a better player than he was then and thatâ€™s helped and definitely Denzel will be back and thatâ€™s gonna help us a lot.â€
For Izzo the loss to Iowa wasnâ€™t as much of a problem as how they played. The lack of hustle infuriates him. Has he been able to communicate that to them? â€œThey understood it well. Now donâ€™t take anything away. I mean Iowa, (Anthony) Clemmons had something to do with it. Couple of their other guys had something to do with it. As we said in our film session that running after a loose ball has nothing to do with whoâ€™s in and isnâ€™t it has to do with what you do. I think they know it. The greatest part was when Denzel was sitting out you see a lot more sitting out than you do playing. He coached some of those film sessions and I think he has a great understanding that that we didnâ€™t do it. It has not been the norm for us or for any player so I think maybe I am at fault. Maybe the guys didnâ€™t know how to handle my situation a day after what happened. Maybe there is a lot of extenuating circumstances.Â Â Getting beat is OK. Getting beat when you are lacking the effort, you have 16 turnovers, they got every loose ball, they have 32 free throws because we were out of position. Those things are inexcusable and we havenâ€™t seen that much here in the last few years and hopefully we wonâ€™t see that again. That doesnâ€™t mean that we will win the game, but we will play a lot more efficiently than we played.â€
The Spartans are garnering a lot of national attention. They are one of the few teams that have not suffered unexplainable losses and have remained disciplined. All of that is nice, but for right now the Spartan want to right their only loss and that starts Thursday.
That game tips off at 7PM and can be seen on ESPN.