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Sunday, February 7, 2010
Izzo split on Illinois loss

By Eamonn Brennan

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Sure, Bruce Weber and Demetri McCamey were happy. But what of Michigan State? Unsurprisingly, Tom Izzo was feeling less rosy about his team's performance -- though he wasn't as upset as his sideline demeanor might have suggested.

Izzo

Izzo

"It was a 50-50 night," said Izzo of his team's 78-73 loss at Illinois. "Fifty percent is upset we lost, but 50 percent is damn proud of my team. ... I'm disappointed in one breath and proud in the other."

Far be it from me to gauge a Tom Izzo reaction ... but Izzo's reaction is probably fair, if even a little harsh. The Spartans were thrown into a buzzsaw on Saturday night. Illinois' crowd was buzzed from an entire day's worth of game-related activity, and the Illini rose to the occasion, hitting big shot after big shot. Michigan State could have wilted, much as it did when Wisconsin punched it in the mouth (metaphorically, mostly) on Tuesday night.

It didn't. Instead, the Spartans hung with Illinois for the entire game, giving themselves chances to retake the lead and even win all the way up until the final seconds. And they did it all without injured guard Kalin Lucas. (Obligatory Lucas update: Izzo wouldn't reveal much, refusing to say when he'd be ready to play and maintaining that Lucas will probably have to play at less than 100 percent, but that didn't mean the Spartans would rush Lucas back on the court. In other words: Who knows?)

Izzo gave much of the credit to forward Draymond Green, who is rapidly developing into one of the better forwards in the country. Green did it all for the Spartans on Saturday night. He scored (17 points). He rebounded (16 boards). He even dropped a few dimes, showcasing touch you wouldn't expect from a man of Green's considerable size. Much as Illinois took on McCamey's personality Saturday night, Michigan State took on Green's. Don't think Izzo didn't notice.

"He's a warrior," Izzo said. "He's the perfect Spartan. He's a blue-collar workhorse, and I'm going to ride him like a jackass."

Um, right. In any case, Izzo can rest easy -- even in a loss to an unranked team, his squad showed something.