Saturday, January 10, 2009

Loud and proud ‘Izzone’ ready for KU

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo yells instructions during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 67-58.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo yells instructions during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 67-58.


— Teams that venture into Michigan State’s Breslin Center not only have to contend with the traditionally tough Spartans.

They must also try to overcome MSU’s raucous student section — which wraps around more than three-fourths of the 14,759-seat arena’s bottom tier.

“It’s known as the ‘Izzone,’’’ KU sophomore center Cole Aldrich said.

Growing up in Bloomington, Minn. — the middle of Big Ten Country — he knows all about the 4,000-person body of students who have supported Tom Izzo’s Spartans the past 14 years.

“The Izzone fans will be crazy,” Aldrich assured of today’s noon battle between KU and No. 8 MSU.

“One kid I played high school ball with told me he’s one of the biggest fans there. Their fans will get on you. They’ll say anything. We’ve got to get out and play,” Aldrich added.

The Izzone has been a major factor in the Spartans’ 26-game homecourt win streak, according to Lansing State Journal writer Joe Rexrode. He noticed a serene atmosphere in Tuesday’s 67-58 victory over Ohio State — played with many Izzone regulars out of town on holiday break.

The students are expected back today.

“It’s like two different places with and without students. Without students, it’s like an NBA arena, folks watching the action and applauding when appropriate,” Rexrode wrote in a blog. “With students, it’s constant screaming — 10-2 runs that turn into 20-4 runs — and the occasional spittle spray on the back of my neck (on press row).”

The Spartans are 260-37 in Breslin — a building that opened in 1989. MSU is 163-13 there the past 12 seasons. The last home loss was to No. 4 Ohio State on Feb. 3, 2007.

“It’s a great home court just like we have a great home court. Arizona was a great home court when we were out there,” KU coach Bill Self said. His Jayhawks have dropped their only true road game of the season — 84-67 to Arizona — on Dec. 23 in Tucson, Ariz.

“This will be one of the best home courts we play all year. It arguably could be the best. It’ll be jumping.”

Self went 1-1 at Breslin in his three seasons as coach at the University of Illinois.

“We had a weird schedule,” he said, noting the Big Ten rivals didn’t play in East Lansing one season. “It’s a fun place to play. You need to be focused and tough.

“Ohio State controlled the tempo (Tuesday in Breslin). Next thing you know, it’s a 12-0 run and lights out. We have to play tough and poised.”

As a coach, Self is more concerned about the Spartans’ talent than the fans who sit in the stands.

And MSU, which has won eight straight games — the squad’s losses are to Maryland, 80-62, on Nov. 27 in the Old Spice Classic in Florida, and North Carolina, 98-63, on Dec. 3 in Detroit — is loaded with talent and experience.

Junior forward Raymar Morgan (6-8, 225), who leads the squad in scoring (15.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.0), has made a league-leading 60.2 percent of his shots.

Sophomore point guard Kalin Lucas (6-0, 180), a second-team Sporting News Preseason All-American, averages 13.3 points a game and has a whopping 84 assists against just 17 turnovers.

Senior center Goran Suton, who missed MSU’s first six games following knee surgery, averages 9.6 points and 6.8 boards. The 6-10, 245-pounder scored 18 points in the Spartans’ 67-63 victory over Texas in Houston.

There are other standouts — like senior stopper Travis Walton (6-2, 190), who held Texas’ A.J. Abrams to eight points off 3-of-10 shooting; freshman forward Delvon Roe (6-8, 225) who has battled back from two knee surgeries in the last 12 months; and sophomore guard Chris Allen (6-3, 205), who has made 28 of 72 threes and averages 10.6 points off the bench.

“Michigan State is good,” Aldrich said, adding, “They are going to pressure the ball on defense, get out and run. They will rebound. It’s going to be a tough game out there. I know how Big Ten teams play. They play strong, tough.”

KU point guard Sherron Collins, who hails from Chicago, had the same take.

“They take care of the ball. They run with the best of them. They are one of the best teams in the country in transition,” he said. “I think the game against Siena (Tuesday’s 91-84 win) helped us. Siena’s guards can push the ball as well. Coach Self warned us we need to be tough. Hopefully this will help prepare us for conference play.”

The Jayhawks, who open Big 12 play Tuesday at home versus Kansas State, are only thinking about the Spartans today.

“They are a team that could make a run at it, obviously, and make the Final Four,” Self said. “They are great at the guard spot, as versatile as can be on the wing and have guys who can anchor it inside. They create problems because they are so fast.

“It should be fun for our guys. It’s an opportunity to see where we are at before the start of conference play.”

And an opportunity to quiet the ‘Izzone.’

“The only way to do that,” junior Mario Little said, “is to come out there and handle our business, to play well.”


jaybate 11 years ago

Ratsozone, er, Izzozone, is loud. Fan volume on a par with AFH. But no foot stomping harmonic vibrations.Muscle and speed and experience. A tough combination.On paper, we probably shouldn't be able to play with these guys.But this is a chance to see just how far we have to go to be good.Self putting in some wrinkles is going to be crucial to playing MSU. Its going to be very interesting to see how "70 point take what they give us" flexes to exploit MSU. What will MSU concede to us? What will Izzo try to take away?MSU seems to have the guns to try to take away Cole and Sherron and see if the rest can beat them.I really hate Ratso and MSU. Find a way, Bill.Rock chalk!

MurrayHewitt 11 years ago

Wow Jaybate, I,ve been up tonight with my little 11 month old who's been crying the last hour. I"ve now read three of you're greatest posts, one from 1:35am and another from around 4:30am...thanks for some good late night pep talks on the hawks.. and get some sleep dude!.

yates33333 11 years ago

Brief but great, another post by Jaybate. I really don't hate MSU, but I hope we somehow can beat them.

KGphoto 11 years ago

It'll be interesting to see how many minutes Little gets. It's the big decision game, why not see what he can do. And we're going to need all the help we can get against Sparta and the entire cast of 300 in the Izzone. (God that's a dorky nickname)But these aren't Roy's boys. This is Self's squad, led by a South Side fireplug. And if we win it's gonna look more like MMA, than Golden Gloves. So we might as well throw down from the tip. Throw some bodies at 'em. Some elbows too. Don't be goons, but don't back down.I'd be satisfied with a Rocky-like loss. But don't get knocked out.

Kevin Long 11 years ago

Soobawls- I disagree with Collins playing reckless. He does tend to try to do too much sometimes, but he has been told that he needs to be a leader on this team. Did you see the game against Tenn?

ku98 11 years ago

Soo"tiny"balls smells like diseased rhinoceros pi$$.

Chris Shaw 11 years ago

Either way, win or lose (I just hope it's a good loss, unlike Zona where we quit in the second half) today's game should put us on par to head into Big 12 play with a strong case. I said all along that if we could enter conference play 11-4 that would be great. I was hoping to go 3-2 in this last 5 game stretch (Zona, Albany, Tennessee, Siena, and Mich State) and that is the worst we can do. I thought originially being 10-5 heading into conference was going to spell disaster for this team. Who knows, maybe we end up beating Mich State today to put us 12-3 and that will have exceeded expectations half way through this season. I just hope the jayhawks play well and play hard for the full 40 minutes to build momentum for Tuesdays match-up against KSU. I am looking more to how KU reacts to adversity (Being on the road, student section, refs, etc.) today on the road then I am so much on "Hitting Shots". If the hustle is there and a "No Quit" attitude then the shots will fall later in the season in other hostile environments. Go Jayhawks!

COJHawk 11 years ago

2 things need to happen today...First, have to protect the ball. MSU always plays hard and VERY PHYSICAL on D. If we don't turn it over and make a few shots, we'll be there.Second, have to rebound the ball, especially on the defensive end. These guys go get it on the offensive glass. If the Morris bros don't block out today, they wont be getting any boards.Thanks for all the posts. Entertaining start to my day. Go Hawks...

lance1jhawk 11 years ago

sooTinybawls is an idiot... Just read his posts from last season when he was calling for HCBS to be fired. He is most likely a Mizzery plant.

speedy 11 years ago

ed hightower, clark kellog, and on CBS? at mich. what a mt. to climb.

jayloco 11 years ago

Looks like we are a bunch of young boys playing men. Not pretty at all too watch today my friends.

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