Spartans limp into game with Maryland

March, 20, 2010
3/20/10
9:57
PM ET
SPOKANE, Wash.-- Michigan State's season has been tumultuous, but coach Tom Izzo has spent the past three days telling reporters he likes where his team is at present.

"I'm feeling good about my team right now," he said during a Saturday news conference before his fifth-seeded squad squares off with No. 4 Maryland on Sunday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.

[+] EnlargeKalin Lucas
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKalin Lucas "tweaked" his ankle while scoring 25 points against New Mexico State in the first round.
So it's all good. Except for the bad stuff, which now includes injuries to two of his starting guards.

Point Kalin Lucas "tweaked" -- Izzo's word -- his ankle during the Spartans first-round win over New Mexico State, a game in which Lucas scored a career-high 25 points. Lucas initially sprained his ankle in early February.

Lucas re-entered the game against New Mexico State and he practiced Saturday. He downplayed the injury, telling reporters he was 100 percent.

Said Izzo, "I wouldn't say he's a 100 percent."

That's certainly not the case with Chris Allen, who was writhing in pain in front of the Spartans' bench when he got hurt against the Aggies.

Allen didn't practice. Izzo said the injury isn't an ankle but a "sprained arch."

"It's what makes you run and jump," he said. "And it's a real difficult injury to tape, unlike a badly sprained ankle."

It's never good to have your two-time All-Big Ten point guard and best 3-point shooter hurt, but the Terrapins love to run and press and feature multi-talented guard Greivis Vasquez, the ACC Player of the Year, whom both Lucas and Allen likely would have guarded at various times.

"If [Allen] doesn't play, that's going to definitely hamper [the game plan] some," Izzo said.

Allen told reporters he's going to play. "It's not hurting as bad as it was and I feel pretty good about it," he said.

At least one person seems to believe Allen: Maryland coach Gary Williams, who said the Terrapins game plan won't be altered by reports. At least not yet.

"One thing I've learned is you don't even think about that until you get out there and start playing," he said. "There's been too many times where guys supposedly have been hurt and all of a sudden they get 20 against you."

Even if Allen and Lucas do play, they'll likely see plenty of pressure from the Terrapins, who like to press. New Mexico State switched to a man-to-man defense and pressed the Spartans in the second half Friday and had some success slowing down a Spartans offense that had been humming along.

"I think that wore us down a little bit," Izzo said.

A caveat Maryland fans: It is possible that Izzo is playing a little opossum. He seemed fairly eager to embrace the underdog role, even though his Spartans played in the Final Four last year.

And there's this: He's 14-3 in second-round games, with all three losses coming vs. No. 1 seeds.

As a skeptical Williams said, "We'll see how it goes."

Ted Miller | email

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