Oct. 30, 2011
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
Michigan State's 85-58 exhibition victory over Ferris State was all about first impressions and here's what stood out most about the newest Spartan model coach Tom Izzo has ever had to break in.
Take freshman wing Branden Dawson. As he was cruising to a 15-point, nine-rebound debut in a MSU uniform, he was taken aback when Izzo got on him for not playing hard enough.
"I did think things were going pretty good," Dawson said. "I did think (I was pushing myself). Coach Izzo just wants things, I wouldn't say perfect, but if you play hard he gets a really good attitude. I really wasn't running back on defense very hard.
"He said if I was playing like that against Harrison Barnes, who's playing on a team like North Carolina, I'd really get chewed out. We came back in here and watched film (at halftime) and I did see myself jog a little bit. It wasn't just me, but he just told me to play hard."
Trice scored all seven of his points in the second half.
"We jumped (Trice) hard because there are certain things we want him to do, and he responded," Izzo said. "And, I really loved that about Branden. We pulled him out early because he wasn't dropping back, and he responded.
"We've just got to take him out of that second and third gear and get him into fourth and fifth, which, most freshmen you have to do that to. When he wants to move his feet, he can move his feet. I think both freshmen responded very, very well, and that was encouraging."
Slimmed-down junior center Derrick Nix, who shared game scoring honors with Dawson and had five rebounds, also made a good impression with his "efficiency," Izzo said, while seniors Draymond Green and Austin Thornton came through in the leadership department.
"It was fun to be around the guys," Izzo said. "It was fun to get on somebody and not have them hang their head. It was a positive step. I give Day-Day (Green) and Austin credit. Today I jumped Trav a little bit, and I watched Day-Day go right over to him and put his arm around him and talk to him."
With 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the floor, eight assists and six rebounds, Green didn't have great numbers, "but he might have had the best game he's played in awhile when you look at on the bench and on the court," Izzo said.
The Spartans weren't sharp on defense, but Izzo explained that the team has worked only on basic defensive principles during preseason practice and will put in more before Friday's final exhibition against Hillsdale, and the Nov. 11 opener against North Carolina in San Diego.
Izzo wasn't thrilled with MSU's 46.3-percent field-goal shooting, but said some ill-advised shots in the late stages of the game made it look worse.
Green's first impression of the team Izzo called "my youngest ever," was favorable.
"We got off to a slow start, which I won't lie and say I didn't expect," Green said. "We're still feeling each other out. But overall, I think we did a pretty good job. A few times (Ferris) made runs and got the lead down to nine, and even when I wasn't in there the guys got it back up to 18 real quick.
"So, there's definitely some positives that will be taken away from this game."