This is madness! No. This is Michigan State basketball! The Sparta that is East Lansing is run by King Leonidas himself, Tom Izzo. Izzo, in his seventeenth season at the helm of the Spartans of Michigan State, won his 400th career game as head coach.
The Big Ten is full of amazing head coaches, both past and present. The past is represented by the wins and titles by Bob Knight, Gene Keady, and Lou Henson. The present is now represented by the minds of Thad Matta, Bo Ryan, Matt Painter, and, of course, Tom Izzo. Izzo became the fourth coach in Big Ten history to win 400 games.
Senior forward Draymond Green led the way for the Spartans Wednesday with his eleventh double-double on the season by snatching 22 points and 14 rebounds. He also added six assists, a steal, and a block on the stat sheet. Green looked like he understood the importance of Wednesday’s game and took it on himself to get the victory. Michigan State won by the score of 68-52.
There was another coach with over 400 victories on the court as well. That would be Tubby Smith, who had the Gophers coming in hot. Coming into Wednesday’s game at East Lansing, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were on a roll. Three straight Big Ten victories including back-to-back road wins for the first time in over two seasons allowed Tubby Smith’s Gophers to creep back into the tournament picture.
The athleticism of the Gopher squad is due to the most part of Rodney Williams. The junior has turned up his game all season, including against MSU with 15 points. He spiked the start of the game for Minnesota with two straight three-pointers and a tip-in dunk, but for the rest of the half, Williams was silent.
It was a typical Big Ten game with a ton of physicality and full of defensive plays. And, with a game called by referee Ed Hightower, always a few questionable calls scattered through. Overall, it was a fair game, which saw the Spartans outmatch the Gophers on the interior.
After losing Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota has lacked a drive on the glass and inside the paint. Senior Ralph Sampson III and others have not been able to subdue any big player the ability to get to the bucket. Izzo used that to his advantage early on. Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Green all got involved quickly to give the Spartans the lead.
Izzo continued to go inside the rest of the game, even though the Spartans are in the top-three in the Big Ten in three-point shooting. The gameplan to go to the basket also allowed Michigan State to grab a healthy helping of second opportunities with offensive rebounds.
If Michigan State was aggressive, Minnesota was the complete opposite. The team settled for mid-range jumpers all game long and rarely looked for the easy layup. The Gophers also got careless with the basketball in the second, which allowed the Spartans to put away with five minutes to go in the game.
The guards were quiet for both teams at the Jack Breslin Student Events Centers. Transfer Brandon Wood finished with zero points. The same held true to both of the Hollins on Minnesota. Point guard Keith Appling of the Spartans also had a quiet game, but he still played very well.
The final score does not portray how close the game was throughout. Minnesota always seemed to have the ability to swim away from the deep end until the final few minutes.
But, this game was all about Izzo. His 17 seasons have all been about winning and winning the right way. He won Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1998 and has been in seven elite eights, including the 2000 title. At the age of 56, Izzo is going no where. He has turned down higher offers from other programs and also the chance of coaching in the NBA with the Cavaliers.
Congratulations from all of us at Big Ten Powerhouse to Tom Izzo on victory #400.
Minnesota now heads back home to face Illinois on Saturday while Michigan State has the weekend off before they play at Illinois during next week.