Men's Basketball Summer Tour: Italy Blog
Follow Michigan State men's basketball all week from Italy.
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MONDAY, Aug. 31
The Spartans had a morning tour in Venice followed by some free time to explore the Islands and a farewell dinner.
SUNDAY, Aug. 30
Michigan State trailed the Georgian Senior National Team by as many as 14 points, but rallied back within a single point and nearly captured victory when Bryn Forbes' 40-foot shot hit the back iron as time expired on Sunday at PalaTrieste in Trieste, Italy. Gavin Schilling led MSU with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Bryn Forbes added 14 for the Spartans, all in the second half.
"We played scared against the Russians," said head coach Tom Izzo. "We really competed for 35 minutes, in fact all 40 minutes against the Italians, which for 35 minutes we played what I thought was pretty good basketball. And for most of tonight, probably 35 minutes, we played good basketball with a couple of two-minute stretches in between. We really showed some character bouncing back from 10-points late . This trip, we unfortunately went 1-3, but this trip was as good as anything I have ever done in my 20 years."
SATURDAY, Aug. 29
Michigan State pulled within five points of the Italian Senior National Team midway through the fourth quarter, but the host team closed the contest on a 20-4 run over the final five minutes for a 90-69 win Saturday at PalaTrieste in Trieste, Italy. Denzel Valentine led MSU with 23 points while Bryn Forbes added 17 for the Spartans.
"We played so much better than we did yesterday, and I think that this is a better team," said head coach Tom Izzo. "We did play better, but we lost by a point or two more than we did last night. The score was not indicative of the game. For 35 minutes, that was a pretty good game. I thought we did a lot of better things. (Bryn) Forbes played a lot better in the second half, (Gavin) Schilling played better and (Matt) Costello bounced back and played better. We also got a lot out of Colby (Wollenman) and Kenny (Goins), but we still have some issues with guys that did not play as well."
FRIDAY, Aug. 28
Michigan State fell to the Russian Senior National Team, 93-75, on Friday at PalaTrieste in Trieste, Italy. Denzel Valentine led the Spartans with 21 points, while Gavin Schilling added 17.
MSU showed great resolve in the second quarter, continuing to chip away at the lead. Valentine was terrific in the quarter, scoring 16 points. By halftime, the Spartans had cut the Russian lead nearly in half to trail by just 10 points, 50-40. For the half, MSU shot .471, including .400 from 3-point range, while the bigger Russian squad shot .630 from the floor and .600 from behind the arc.
"This was a very, very, very good game for us to play in," said head coach Tom Izzo. "We came back a couple of times and made some runs. Our fast break looked good and that is what their coaches said to me at times, but we couldn't defend. And that is what we are usually pretty good at. We did not defend the ball screens very well, and we fouled too much."
Three Spartans (Gavin Schilling, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello) led MSU with four rebounds each. Valentine and Tum Tum Nairn Jr. each had five assists for the Spartans.
THURSDAY, Aug. 27
The Spartans left Verona Thursday morning and traveled to U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. The first stop on base was a brief talk with some troops as they explained the different weapons they used. From there, the Spartans met with several officers. After a brief break for lunch that involved dining in a food court and meeting the troops and their families, the Spartans made their way to the gym. First, they played a wheelchair basketball game against Soldiers in Transition, followed by a practice in front of any interested military personnel. The afternoon concluded with a bus ride to Trieste, sight of MSU's next three games.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26
The Spartans left Florence Wednesday morning and traveled by bus to Maranello to visit the Ferrari Museum. After a tour that included looking at Ferraris, both race cars and street cars new and old, the Spartans got a chance to try their skills on an F1 race car simulator, as freshman Conner George turned in the top lap. MSU then divided into three-man teams for the Pit Stop Challenge, with Tum Tum Nairn Jr., Marvin Clark Jr., and Javon Bess changing a tire in under four seconds. After spending time with Ferrari's Director of Communications, the Spartans bussed to Verona for the evening.
To view the video of Nairn, Clark and Bess winning their title in the Pit Stop Challenge, visit our Instagram.
TUESDAY, Aug. 25
Head coach Tom Izzo recaps the first game of the trip.
Listen to head coach Tom Izzo share his thoughts on the trip thus far.
DD (Deyonta Davis) throws down a dunk over a Basket Fiorentina defender on Tuesday night in Florence, Italy.
MSU opened its four-game trip in Italy with a 98-54 victory over Basket Fiorentina, the new professional team in Florence. The Spartans shot .576 from the field in the victory. Bryn Forbes led MSU with 18 points and Denzel Valentine added 16.
"I thought we were locked in," said Izzo. "The only thing we did wrong was when we made some turnovers. We made a lot of free throws tonight, which is encouraging. We shot the ball well from three. Defensively I thought we were pretty good. We took some chances. Some things we haven't covered yet, that you forget to cover and all of a sudden there were a couple plays that they ran that created some problems for us. We made some adjustments at halftime. I was really pleased but I'm trying to keep it in perspective."
Denzel Valentine blows by a defender en route to scoring 16 points on Tuesday night.
Michigan State and Basket Fiorentina pose for a group photo after the Spartans 98-54 victory.
On Tuesday morning, the Spartans took a guided walk from their hotel to the Piazza della Signoria, where they posed in front of the Fountain of Neptune before entering Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. Inside they were honored by the deputy mayor and were presented with a crest of the city. Following a brief ceremony, the guided tour continued to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower), one of the most impressive churches in Italy. After a little free time in Florence, the Spartans returned to their hotel to prepare for the first game of the trip.
Head coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans are presented with the crest of the city before preparing for tonight's game.
Assistant coach Mike Garland snaps a photo while touring Florence.
Head coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans walk the streets of Florence before their first game of the trip.
The Spartans pose for a team picture in front of the Fountain of Neptune.
You never know who you'll see in Italy. The Spartans ran into Jim Jackson from the Big Ten Network walking the streets of Florence.
MONDAY, Aug. 24
The last day in Rome started with a trip to Vatican City. With their guide Jerry, the team toured through the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps before eventually reaching the Sistine Chapel. After a time of reflection, the Spartans moved on to St. Peter's Basilica, where the entire group was overwhelmed by the history and decor of the church. The team was fascinated by the history on display, and eventually had to cut off the visit in order to catch a train. The Spartans exited through St. Peter's Square, stopping for another excellent photo.
At. 2:50, the Spartans left Rome via high-speed train, arriving in Florence at 4:20. Monday evening also was the first basketball experience of the trip, going through practice at PalaCoverciano, site of Tuesday night's game.
The Spartans visited Vatican City today, taking in the sites of St. Peter's Basilica, the Gallery of Tapestries and the Sistine Chapel. Check out some of the photos below.
SUNDAY, Aug. 23
Michigan State Professor of Economics Charles Ballard gave the team a brief history lesson as they strolled the streets of Rome and visited the Trevi Fountain. The Spartans couldn't help from stopping for some gelato as well...you know what they say, "when in Rome."
The Spartans stop in the streets of Rome for pictures after visiting the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was just one of several stops for the Spartans today.
Rome continues to provide the Spartans with several oportunites for team photos as they soak in its history.
SATURDAY, Aug. 22
After a flight of just under nine hours from Detroit, the Spartans touched down in Rome shortly before 9 a.m. local time. The first stop of the day was Piazza Navona, where the group enjoyed an opportunity to stretch their legs, see some amazing fountains, watch local artists at work, and grab an early lunch. From there, the Spartans traveled to the Colosseum for a guided tour. They also made sure to pose for a team picture in front of the Arch of Constantine just outside the Colosseum.
The Spartans pose for a team picture in front of the Arch of Constantine.
The Spartans take in a piece of history as they walk outside the Colosseum.
FRIDAY, Aug. 21
The Spartans have begun their journey to Italy by flying out of Detroit, non-stop, to Rome. The next 10 days will include four games against high-caliber international teams, as well as amazing cultural and global experiences with an academic component.
MSU's trip is scheduled to include stops in Rome, Florence, Maranello, Verona, Trieste and Venice. Tour highlights include the Roman Forum, Roman Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, St. Mark's Square, and the Grand Canal. In addition, MSU will visit the U.S. Army Base in Vicenza. The trip will also include meetings and interaction with international business leaders. The Spartans will play one game in Florence on Aug. 25, and then take part in a three-game tournament in Trieste, Aug. 28-30, against senior men's national teams from Italy, Russia and Georgia. The international teams will use the tournament as a final tune-up for Eurobasket 2015, where they will attempt to earn a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Listen in to the Spartans' thoughts about the trip as they make their way to Italy.