February 1, 2010
Izzo: Amen Corner awaits on back nine
EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo equated his team's 9-0 conference start to getting off to an excellent start on the front nine of at The Masters. The front nine at Augusta National isn't easy, but it is somewhat of a tease compared to the back nine, which starts off with a series of tough holes known to the golf world as Amen Corner.
"This might be the toughest three-game stretch that we've had since I've been here," said Izzo during his Monday press conference.
Michigan State starts with a pair of road games against conference rivals in Wisconsin and Illinois. The Spartans then come home to the Breslin Center for a showdown with Purdue. Wisconsin has been unassailable at home during the past decade, but Michigan State is looking forward to the opportunity to face Bo Ryan and the Badgers.
"They know Wisconsin is a very good team and they know it is a tough place to play because they have been there," said Izzo.
Michigan State enters the second half of the Big Ten season having won 12 of their last 13 conference road games. The Spartans take their unbeaten conference record to the Kohl Center as one of just three BCS conference schools unbeaten in league play. Kansas and Villanova are the only other BCS conference schools without a conference loss.
Michigan State beat Wisconsin 54-47 at the Breslin Center in early January. In that game, Wisconsin received a stellar performance from inside-outside threat Jon Leuer. Leuer suffered a wrist injury in the very next game and has not played since that time. It is unknown whether Leuer will be available for Michigan State's game on Tuesday.
Michigan State is putting emphasis on limiting turnovers. Michigan State has been good avoiding turnovers against teams like Minnesota and Northwestern that force turnovers. Against teams that haven't been among the conference leaders in forcing turnovers, like Michigan, the Spartans have been shaky. Izzo wants his team to maintain focus and avoid turnovers against Wisconsin. If the Spartans can avoid being careless with the basketball, Wisconsin's tactic of milking the shot clock will not be as effective as it might have been otherwise.
Durrell Summers was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his Spartan career. Summers garnered the honor after recording two double doubles in back to back games against Michigan and Northwestern. Summers scored 10 points and added 10 rebounds with 5 assists against Michigan. The Spartan junior followed that up with 24 points against Northwestern.
"He is a very, very gifted kid and he is starting to see things," Izzo said. "If he continues to play that way, we are going to be a very good team."
Michigan State is averaging 71 points per game in conference road games and allowing just 59.9 points per game on defense in conference games.
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