March 30, 2013
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
INDIANAPOLIS - Forget the 24-hour rule to mourn a loss.
This one is going to hurt for days, weeks, and hopefully even months, Michigan State sophomore guard Travis Trice told his teammates after being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Friday night's 71-61 Midwest Regional semifinal loss to Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"It's hard to look ahead right now," said MSU coach Tom Izzo. "There's really no reason to. I like Travis' comment. Twenty-four hour rule? No, it's not going to be 24, or 36 or 48 because the sour taste will be that we didn't play our best game.
"In saying that, they were the better team. But if we would have played our best and got beat, you could live with that a little longer. But right now, it's going to be hard to live with for awhile and hopefully that will drive me and us.
"I know this, the program's in good shape and we have a chance to get better and we will get better. Our freshmen will grow from this, our sophomores and juniors will hopefully set goals that they want to get farther along than we did this year."
The only player who won't be back for the 2013-14 season for sure is center Derrick Nix, but junior Adreian Payne, who scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double and the 10th of his career, said after the game he was looking forward to returning to MSU instead of leaving early for the NBA.
"We're going to be good next year," Payne said. "We've got everybody coming back, and Nix is the only senior, so it's just going to make us that much better."
Said Izzo, "I don't want to look ahead because I think that's insulting to Nix, it's insulting to all the people who came down here - Ah, let's go somewhere else next year. That's not the way it works.
"Trice is my hero. I want to see if this can bother me for six months because I'm proud of my team but not happy with the way it ended."
The officials whistled the Spartans for 24 fouls, 10 more than their average in four previous postseason games, including two in the Big Ten Tournament. Nix and sophomore forward Brandon Dawson were handicapped by early foul trouble.
"When that thing's stopping like it did, it's hard to get a rhythm and I thought that hurt us," said Izzo, who avoided getting into a confrontation with the refs the best he could. "I bit everything I could bite.
"I think it got in all of our heads and that's why I say I did a poor job because I can't let that happen."
"Coach said to let him take care of the refs," Nix said. "We did that. A couple of calls didn't go our way, but we can't blame that on the officiating. We got ourselves in that situation. We have to be men and take it as men."
Dawson said the interruptions - Duke was called for 17 fouls - made the game hard to play.
"It was very frustrating," Dawson said. "It was chippy, chippy fouls. There were a lot of touch fouls called. Fortunately, the fouls were going back and forth. We kind of dug ourselves a hole."
Freshman guard Gary Harris, who played his high school ball in nearby Fishers, had his hands full guarding Duke senior Seth Curry, who burned MSU for 29 points and set a stadium record with six 3-point shots, on nine attempts.
"Curry did a great job using his body to create separation and you could definitely see he is a veteran player," Harris said. "He knows a lot of tricks and I kind of fell for them today."
Izzo said this performance will play a role in Harris' development.
"It's not his fault," Izzo said. "(Curry) made some shots that were great, and I thought (Harris) had a hard time covering him the way it was being called, and I think a lot of people might have (under the circumstances).
"(Harris) went 2-for-11 and he probably had his worst game on both ends for a freshman. I don't know if it was the pressure of being home, or the pressure of the tournament but I love the kid. He's been so good this year on both ends of the court, but he's going to grow and learn from this.
"That's why this tournament is so brutal."
Izzo's 12-year-old son, Steven, was the subject of a national discussion this week because he picked Duke to beat the Spartans. Izzo explained that Steven didn't betray MSU; he just applied common sense.
Curry was joined in the starting lineup by two other seniors, power forward Mason Plumlee and forward Ryan Kelly. The threesome accounted for a total of 52 points against Michigan State.
"I was baffled by my poor son, who's taken a beating this week, but when I asked him at the end. `Why?' he said, `Well dad, they have three seniors,' " Izzo said. "And I kind of laughed. All three of them played with a purpose and my one senior was out half of the first half and I don't think he ever got into a rhythm.
"That was the difference in the game."