Michigan State wrapped up its exhibition season with a convincing 83-45 win against Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, but it was not as convincing as coach Tom Izzo thought it could have been.
“I really wasn’t happy because when you finish poorly you’re never happy,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things we tried to talk to our team about is are you going to sustain some excellence or are we just going to not finish games.”
The Spartans had four of their six turnovers in the final 6:13 and had just seven points in the final 8:30 on 3 of 10 shooting.
”It’s probably still on the board, (Izzo is) talking about the Sweet 16,” junior Travis Trice said. “That’s where we finished last year and that’s how we finished the game today like a Sweet 16 team so we definitely have to step up on how we finish the games.”
The Crimson Hawks played the Spartans close early, but Gary Harris hit a pair threes and Denzel Valentine added a three-point play as part of an 18-4 run in the middle of the first half to pull away.
Harris was 5 of 7 shooting from 3-point range on the day and racked up 21 points.
”I want to work on getting to the basket more instead of just being labeled as a 3-point shooter,” Harris said, “but my shot was falling tonight so I just rolled with it.”
Harris benefited from an unselfish game from Keith Appling, who assisted on three of Harris’ 3-pointers on his way to an 11-assist game.
“Everybody asked if he had improved his decision making,” Izzo said. “Eleven assists and no turnovers and kind of took care of the game. That’s what happens when Harris is making shots.”
Appling said exhibition season is a good time for him to focus on improving part of his game such as passing.
“It’s just something that I focus on,” Appling said. “Scoring is something that I can do. I know I can do that well.”
Branden Dawson finished with 10 points for the Spartans, while Russell Byrd and Adreian Payne had nine each.
While Izzo also pointed out the Spartans need to rebound better and convert free-throw opportunities, the Spartans hit 13 of 31 3-point attempts and showed the ability to get out and run like they have wanted to in recent years.
Now, the Spartans prepare for McNeese State in their regular-season opener Friday with exhibition season behind them.
Appling said it he sees a lot more the team can do as the season really begins.
“I guess we will have to wait and see (where the team is),” he said. “As a team, we feel like we still have a lot more to give, but we like where we’re at right now. As I said, we just gotta wait and see.”