Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had his questions about his team going into its game against Michigan.
The big one: Who could he take to war with him. He found an answer to that, even in defeat.
”I had some guys that I questioned if I’d want to go to war with (them on my side),” he said. “I’d go to war with them today.”
Freshman Alvin Ellis, who had a career-high 12 points in MSU’s 80-75 loss, said he knows he is one of those guys that made a statement to his coach.
“I’m definitely one of those guys,” Ellis said. “I won’t stop fighting until the clock hits zero. I’ll just go out there and compete.”
With forwards Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne out, Izzo was left relying on more players and more depth.
Junior guard Russell Byrd played more minutes than he has since late December, as did freshman forward Gavin Schilling. Ellis played his most minutes in more than two weeks.
“It’s real difficult,” Ellis said. “We know we have two people – main guys, guys that score the ball. Branden brings a lot of energy and Payne is just unstoppable. We need people to step up and play their part and do their role.”
Those players stepping up to the challenge was all part of what left Izzo proud his team.
“Just the fact that guys like Alvin, guys like Gavin, even Matt (Costello) with nine rebounds. … It’s a lot to be proud of,” Byrd said. “I think everybody is proud of everybody. Him knowing that we cared about winning this game more than anything, it hurt. I think it went a long way for him.”
Sophomore Gary Harris, who set a career high with 27 points, said even with the big negative of losing, the team will be better down the road now.
“It’s only going to help us down the road,” Harris said. “Once we get everybody back, we are going to be a really deep team.”