Delay worked to benefit of Spartans, who shift focus to UM

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Piscataway, N.J. – Michigan State waited a couple of extra days for its game at Rutgers.

And as tough as that might have been, it has allowed very little time to dwell on what's next — a visit from its biggest rival.

The Spartans dispatched of the Scarlet Knights, 71-51, on Thursday after the game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed because of a winter storm. Now the attention turns quickly toward Sunday's game at the Breslin Center against Michigan.

The ever-changing week could make it tough for the Spartans to squeeze in any off time, but coach Tom Izzo was confident his team would figure out a way to be prepared for the Wolverines.

"I don't know what I'm going to do yet," Izzo said.

"That's going to be a problem, it depends on what time we get back (Thursday night) and how the guys feel. I know one thing, we're going to be ready to play that game."

Junior center Matt Costello chose to not turn his focus just yet.

"Let's enjoy this win first," he said.

But in the joyous Michigan State locker room at the Rutgers Athletic Center, it was hard to ignore what was coming. The Spartans lost both regular-season matchups with the Wolverines last season before winning in the Big Ten tournament championship game.

Branden Dawson didn't play in either regular-season game last year before scoring 24 in the tournament title game.

"How ready am I?" Dawson said.

"I'm very ready to play against Michigan. Last year I wasn't able to play at home so we'll be ready for it. We have to come ready to play."

For junior transfer Bryn Forbes, it will be his first taste of the rivalry.

And for the Lansing native, getting to play in the rivalry for the first time at home will be even bigger.

"Oh man, I'm so excited," said Forbes, who scored 18 points on Thursday. "It's gonna be crazy."

Injury report

Forbes was back in the starting lineup on Thursday after coming off the bench the previous three games. This time it wasn't about performance, it was because freshman Javon Bess aggravated an ankle injury in practice.

"He sprained his ankle and was out most of the practices," Izzo said of Bess. "He practiced a little bit the other day … that's been hard, too. It's frustrating."

Bess wasn't the only one hurting.

Senior guard Travis Trice had a rib near on his left side pop out in practice this week and it did so again on Thursday. He said it had to be popped back in at halftime and he took another shot late in the game.

"It's one of those things that hurts and after it settles down or goes back in it doesn't hurt as bad," Trice said.

"There were a couple times I'd go up and shoot or make moves that don't hurt one time and then you do the same movement and it would hurt. But I'm fine."

Turnover prone

For the second straight game, Michigan State had trouble hanging on to the ball.

After turning it over 16 times in a loss at Nebraska, the Spartans gave it up 17 times against Rutgers.

"(It's) very concerning, because they were just sloppy," Izzo said. "I think we lost some focus there … Two in a row, and I told my team, I put that on my board before the game, I haven't used that turnover line in about five games as far as putting it on there because we've done a great job. So it's something that we'll watch film and work on."