Sorry Izzone, the Spartans didn’t score 70 points, no tacos for you. But a 28-point victory in which MSU held their opponent to only one more point than the Spartans themselves had in the second half is something to cheer about.
The lineup before the game was surprising, as Alex Gauna was put in as a starter with Derrick Nix coming off the bench. MLive reporter Diamond Leung also pointed out that Derrick Nix’s twitter account was deleted, with this genius tweet. After the game, Izzo was asked about it, because everyone speculated that something was wrong but it turns out that he just wanted Gauna to get some playing time against a team like Texas Southern.
While we’re on that, let’s look at how Gauna played today. Although he started, he went 1-5 from the field with 2 points and grabbed 3 rebounds. Not too good of a showing for Alex Gauna. This, once again, will raise more questions as to why Izzo keeps deciding to play Gauna. He’s not giving much to the team. Although Gauna started, he only played about 14 minutes. The big men that played the most were Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix.
The rotation that Tom Izzo was using worked well, Especially with the guards; Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine, Keith Appling and Russell Byrd all played a lot. Byrd didn’t play well, he only had 2 points on 5 shots including two missed three-pointers at the end, but it’s good too see him taking shots and trying to find his sweet spot. While this worked well, it’s going to be interesting to see how Travis Trice finds a spot in there once he returns from his concussion, because he’ll obviously get a lot of playing time. My guess is that Kearney, who played 17 minutes today, will see his playing time significantly decrease along with Byrd’s, while Appling’s playing time will decrease a little bit as Izzo may put in Trice at point sometimes. If you were to ask me this same question a week or so ago, I’d say that Denzel Valentine’s play time will decrease significantly, but I don’t know if Izzo will do that due to Valentine’s superb play and passing ability. Oh- we can’t forget that he actually has a good shot, too, when he uses it.
That brings us right to the biggest topic: freshman. As they’ve been a big part of the team all year, the freshman played the biggest part in the team’s win today. For one, the leading scorer was Gary Harris, with 19 points on 10 shots (don’t forget, that’s coming off an 18 point performance against Kansas). He played 25 minutes, the second-most on the team. Fellow freshman Denzel Valentine played 22 minutes, had 8 points and 5 assists, continuing to show us his incredible court vision and passing ability. Also, forward Matt Costello, who had praise from Tom Izzo in the preseason but got hurt and couldn’t play the first two games, finally had some action today, playing 11 minutes and getting 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. Costello’s defensive abilities were a bright spot in the game. He’s definitely going to help the Spartans’ frontcourt throughout this year.
In the next week, MSU plays three games at the Breslin Center. They play Boise State (2-0) on Tuesday, Oakland (1-3) on Friday and Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1) on Sunday. None of those teams are cupcake opponents, but the Spartans should come out victors in all of those games.