Maybe Tom Izzo cares about the Michigan State fan base, after all.
After the Spartans’ blowout loss to Michigan on Tuesday, Izzo said, “I feel bad for our fans because I don’t think that’s the effort they’re used to.”
It was a stark departure from his comments last month, when the longtime Michigan State coach declared, “I don’t care about the fan base.”
The Spartans were run out of Crisler Arena on Tuesday, losing by 29 points to their biggest rival. They surrendered 55 first-half points, the most Michigan has scored against any Big Ten opponent in the John Beilein era.
“They took it to us and we did not respond very well…It was tough to see us not compete, that doesn’t happen very often,” Izzo said. “All the credit goes to (Michigan). They outplayed us in every aspect of the game.”
Izzo praised Michigan’s upperclassmen, particularly Derrick Walton Jr., for playing with “incredible passion,” before lamenting, “Our freshman did not match that.”
Instead, the Spartans’ youth reared its ugly head. Michigan State committed 21 turnovers, 14 of which were attributed to freshmen.
“It started off bad and it got worse,” Izzo said. “When it starts off bad, usually it finishes bad. It looked like a bunch of freshman against a bunch of juniors and seniors – and give them credit. They had a purpose, they came out.”
The coach later backed off his stance that his young team was beaten due to a lack of effort.
“I don’t think it was just a lack of effort, I think it was a lack of experience. I think it was a lack of understanding what has to be done in a rivalry game,” said Izzo.
“I wouldn’t say we didn’t compete,” he added. “We tried to press up on them and they ran a lot of stuff, the dribble-drives we just had some guys in there that couldn’t cover it. I thought we played awful and I thought they played great. That’s a bad combination.”
Ironically, Izzo thought his team had been practicing brilliantly leading up to Tuesday’s game.
“As disappointing as it is, I swear to you, I told my team at the pregame, ‘You all had the best week of practice.’ The last step you have to take to become a good team, a real good team, is can you take practice to a game? We did not take practice to a game,” he said.