Izzo Continues To Place High Standards On His Spartans

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State is ranked as the sixth-best team in college basketball and has lost only one of 14 games.
Sophomore forward Raymar Morgan shared Big Ten player of the week honors after scoring a career-high 31 points in the Spartans' conference-opening win over Minnesota.
Coach Tom Izzo, however, is far from satisfied.
"Keeping things in perspective for me is harder than for the fans," Izzo said Monday. "Somebody asked me a great question, 'Have you changed your standards?' The answer is, unequivocally, 'Yes.'
"But as I stated earlier , that's the way it was going to be this year."
Expectations at Michigan State are as high as they've been since the elite program advanced to Final Fours from 1999-2001, winning the 2000 title, with players such as Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Jason Richardson leading the way.
To reach lofty goals this season, the Spartans need senior star Drew Neitzel to play up to his potential and must get consistent production from their frontcourt.
Neitzel leads the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio -- nearly 5 to 1 -- but he is averaging less than 14 points a game. Neitzel averaged 18 points last season.
The preseason All-American and Big Ten player of the year is taking fewer shots than he did last season, in part because the surrounding cast has improved. Neitzel was just 2-of-11 from the field, missing all six 3-point attempts, in the 65-59 win over Minnesota on Saturday night.
Izzo was encouraged to see Neitzel back the Breslin Center the next day, working on his shot, and the following morning, watching film.
"Drew is still the guy we need for big shots and in big games," Izzo said.
Michigan State's post players, such as Goran Suton and Marquise Gray, continue to create headaches for Izzo with their spotty play.
Suton and Gray combined for seven of the Spartans' 19 turnovers against the Gophers. Suton had seven points and Gray had none. Drew Naymick and Idong Ibok did not score, combining to play 32 minutes.
"Can we win the Big Ten the way the bigs played in the last game?" Izzo asked, repeating a question. "No way. Not a chance."
The Spartans (13-1, 1-0) host Purdue (10-4, 1-0) Tuesday night, and Izzo has been impressed with how the Boilermakers have played Gene Keady-like defense with a new-look offense in Matt Painter's third season in charge.
"They ran what looked like a five-guard offense at times against Michigan, with two 6-8 guys," Izzo said. "They're skilled. They have about seven guys that take 3s and six or seven guys that can really handle the ball.
"(Robbie Hummel) leads them in rebounds and assists, which is a bizarre combination."
Michigan State freshman Chris Allen has been limited to 11 of the 14 games because of a foot injury, and Izzo hopes he will play Jan. 12 at Iowa.


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