February 5, 2012

Pre-Game Six Pack: Izzo believes Appling will regroup

EAST LANSING - A Six Pack of Tom Izzo's best quotes from Friday's practice, heading into today's game against Michigan (1 p.m.).

1. What makes Michigan's offense difficult to stop? "They drive you, and they have shooters. That's what's hard about it. It's not their offense as much anymore. They don't run their old offense as much anymore. They ball screen and go, and that's the part that is the hardest."

2. How have Keith Appling's guard decisions been of late? "Not very good. That's one of our problems. Just the last four games. Film and just tell him to slow down and not try to take the game over.

"Maybe some of it is us. Maybe we are putting him in positions where he has the ball all the time and it isn't fair to him, especially at Illinois. With DayDay out he was kind of stuck a little bit and we didn't know what Travis Trice could do because he hadn't practiced in a week. He was struggling and it made it work.

"He just has to read it and understand situations a little better. And the only way to do that is to spend more time in the film room. For the most part, I have no one on this team who works harder them he does in practice. So that's not the issue. It's just spending more time, seeing where things could be open, should be open. I think what he did in that last game is he tried to take that game over with DayDay out and just took some questionable shots. I've been with Keith a year and a half and he has never taken bad shots. I thought he took a couple of bad shots. I don't think it was selfishly; I think he was trying to win the game for us."

"I think I have to do a little more to DayDay now and go through him. It doesn't mean he has to take the shot. Take some of the pressure off Keith, you know? But Keith will be all right. He is tough enough that he will respond. I'm not worried about Keith. I need him to play better, but he was playing about as good as anybody in the first five games. He'll bounce back."

3. On Branden Dawson's recent surge: "He is learning how to run the court better, learning how to get to the hole better, learning how to get to the offensive boards better, he is starting to learn how to guard a little bit better and more energy. If everybody else keeps playing like we were playing before maybe these last two weeks, and then he was that missing piece to that puzzle that I think could really taken us somewhere big time.

"I want to get him running the lane. He hadn't run it for two months. He is starting to run now. He is starting to enjoy it and see the benefits."

4. Does the Michigan rivalry become more meaningfuly, more special after you've lost three straight? "It's always extra special when you lose. When you lose more than one, it is. I have learned early in my career that I can get caught up in that. But I don't play the game. So my job is to know what I want to do and relay it to our players the best we can.

"We all know it's a big game. It's a big game for a million reasons, but probably the biggest because of the rivalry. The standings and all that take care of themselves, but I'm looking forward to it."

5. On the poor shooting performance on Tuesday at Illinois: "We were second in the league in points scored. We were 51.6 going into Illinois, which is the highest you have known (since I've been coach here). We were 42.3 from the three which is probably the highest 3-point percentage that I've ever been involved with. And you have a game like that and you have people saying, 'I don't want to watch you anymore because you play so bad.' We have some guys who haven't played as well. We have some guys that have played better. But I liked the shots that we got in the last game. I liked the way we defended. I actually liked the way we executed. We got people the ball in places where we needed it. I just didn't like the way we shot. So I'm not going to panic over that.

"We semi-panicked over it early in the year and we somewhat worked out way out of it. Now we have had one game when we shot bad.

"I'm not going to complain about the officiating, but A.P. (Adreian Payne) got hit three or four times pretty good. That did make a difference. Two or three of those go in and you are shooting 40 percent.

"I'm not over-complaining about it. I think two things have changed our game - one is that stupid line. Everybody is just falling down, and if it's not inside the line they say it's a charge." (The other thing, Izzo said, is since the Xavier-Cincinnati fight there is over-reaction to any issues going on, on the court).

6. On MSU's inconsistent perimeter defense and the need to get more out of Brandon Wood "Right now Dawson is starting to defend better and that would be good news for us too. It's hard when you know you have one good defender in Keith and you have two average defenders (Dawson and Wood). You can get away with one on the perimeter. You can't get away with two.

"Brandon Wood has not played as well lately. I'm sure they are down there saying, 'What do you have to do to get Hardaway going?' Because he hasn't shot as well. It's just the way it is with a lot of players. Staying consistent is probably the biggest things we all try to do.

"In saying that, I think Brandon Wood has to realize - as I told him, if you play at this level you have to do two of the three things well. You have to either score, or be a great rebounder and be a defender. If you can only do one of the three, then when you struggle in that one area then you have problems. So he is learning how to be a better defender and how to be a little tougher. So if his shot isn't quite there - which he is a very good shooter - then it doesn't cost him playing time. But if you can only do one of the three, it's going to cost him (playing time)."

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