Spartans pause for some March Movie Madness
Syracuse, N.Y. — Michigan State had plenty of time to kill on Friday afternoon.
It had done the bulk of its preparation for its East Regional semifinal game against Oklahoma, but the 10 p.m. tip-off left the Spartans with plenty of time on their hands.
So instead of running his players through another walk-through or watching more film, coach Tom Izzo asked them what they wanted to do.
The verdict? A movie.
So instead of cram one last time, Michigan State went to see "Get Hard," the new comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.
It worked, as Michigan State beat Oklahoma, 62-58, to advance to the Elite Eight against Louisville.
"I called a couple of my captains in there in the morning when we had breakfast," Izzo said, "and I said, 'What are we going to do today? What do you want to do?' Believe it or not, I said, 'What about going to a movie?' Shows you how soft I'm getting. I probably caused the problems in the first half. Instead of grinding it in some film we went to a damn movie. We did just try to break up the day."
Izzo didn't go, he stayed backed and kept grinding. But he thought the movie choice was just fine.
"I had to find something that was a little light," he said. "I didn't want anything too deep. That wasn't too deep. I kept seeing the commercials. Will Ferrell had visited our place a few years ago. Last year I sat with Kevin Hart at the UConn game. So I said this could be a good omen. So they went. I said, 'If we lose, we'll never do it again. If we win, hell, we might go to the movies tomorrow.' I don't know."
Odds are the movies are done, considering Michigan State and Louisville play at 2:20 p.m. Sunday, making for a quick turnaround.
Izzo said he hopes to learn from a similar scenario in last year's regionals.
"Last year we did not do a very good job," Izzo said. "We got back at 1:30, 2 in the morning and I thought did a terrible job. So I'm reevaluating. We looked at some things we want to do, maybe get them a little more rest and us a little more work. Because this is a tough team to prepare for with their press and their zone and all the stuff they do that we don't see a lot of. We'll get some time. We've just got to be smarter in how we handle it."
For a little more than two hours on Friday night, Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn and Buddy Hield put their friendship on hold.
The two are both natives of the Bahamas, but they became close playing together at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas. During the game, they squared off a few times, but Nairn played only 11 minutes and had trouble overcoming an early turnover.
Hield scored 21, but he was just 3-for-10 from 3-point range.
When the game ended, however, they embraced and Hield had some advice for his younger friend.
"I just told him, 'Go win it all,' " Hield said. "I feel like since they beat us, we're not the only team they can beat. So go win it all."
Junior Denzel Valentine scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and became the 48th player in Michigan State history to reach 1,000 points for his career. He joins Branden Dawson, Travis Trice and Bryn Forbes as Spartans who have surpassed 1,000 career points this season.
… Trice is averaging 20.7 points in three tournament games and moved into 39th place on MSU's all-time scoring list at 1,102 points.