‘I love this team,’ Izzo says after 500th win at MSU

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Fullerton, Calif. — Tom Izzo wears his emotions on his sleeves — and his pants, and his collars, and just about everywhere else, too.

So it’s no surprise to see him choke up when talking about his time, and more specifically his players, at Michigan State, which on Thursday night gave him the 500th win of his career, 99-68 over Boston College at Cal State-Fullerton.

“I love this team. We’ve got a great bunch of guys,” Izzo said. “There’s been so many people that have been instrumental.

“I said, ‘Mike Krzyzewski (college basketball’s all-time wins leader) is not sitting at home shaking. But in some ways, I’ve got it better than anybody.’

“As it is Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the guys I’ve got, the guys I’ve had and all the people that have helped me have this special win.

“Only 532 games behind Mike.”

Izzo called out several players by name, including one sitting next to him on the dais following the victory. He also noted how nice it is to have Drew Neitzel around calling games on the radio, and how touched he was Draymond Green, now with the Golden State Warriors, flew to Los Angeles on Thursday to see the game before flying off to Phoenix, where the Warriors play Friday.

Green, who played at MSU for 107 of Izzo’s wins, presented Izzo with a specially inscribed Rolex after the victory.

B.C. coach impressed

After the MSU win, Boston College coach Jim Christian had some mighty high praise for the third-ranked Spartans.

“They are very unselfish, and they make the extra play,” he said. “They don’t have any bad possession or take any selfish shots.

“I knew they’d be very good and if there is a better team in the country, I haven’t seen them play. I think they are the best team in the country.”

Izzo, of course, doesn’t want to hear that.

As he said Thursday, he still thinks MSU has a “tremendous ceiling” that hasn’t been reached.

“Jimmy was down at TCU and he moved north, and he must have some frostbite or something,” Izzo said, smiling. “We’re playing good right now and sometimes my teams, for the most part, have gotten better as the year goes on.

“I told these guys, ‘We’ll see how well we handle a little success now.’ In one week, you go from the hunter to the hunted.”

MSU was ranked No. 13 in the preseason poll, but moved up 10 spots after beating Kansas earlier this month.

New long-range threat

Wait a second.

Was that really Lou Rawls Nairn Jr., knocking down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions?

Those were his first two made threes of the season, and just the fourth and fifth of his two-year career. And, oh by the way, they weren’t exactly an accident.

“He’s been working on his jump shot the whole summer,” said Denzel Valentine, “6:30, every single morning.”

It certainly caught Boston College off-guard.

“I was wide open,” said Nairn, “because they weren’t really guarding me.”

Nairn finished with 13 points, second on the team behind Valentine.

Izzo, of course, didn’t miss a chance to needle his new long-range threat.

“Tum is one of the best guys in the country,” Izzo said. “I’m not gonna call him a shooter yet.”

Just let it come

Valentine knew it. He knew he had one more assist to get to secure his second triple-double of the season.

And it looked like he was trying to force the issue to get that one more assist.

At one point, Valentine cringed when Matt Costello missed a shot, and again when another teammate passed up a 3-pointer.

His teammates saw this, Izzo saw this and so did assistant coach Dwayne Stephens; the two coaches had words on the bench with Valentine before he finally recorded assist No. 10 late in the second half.

“They are right,” Valentine said. “If you try to go out there and force a triple-double, it’s not going to happen.

“I just started playing. The next thing you know, it happened.”

Slam dunks

Michigan State made some Wooden Legacy history — with its 99 points being the most in tournament history, and its 31-point margin of victory being the largest in tournament history.

... Matt Costello called the victory as complete a performance as he’s seen from the offense. MSU flirted with scoring 100 for the first time since 2013, but Izzo told his players to hold the ball the final 20 seconds.

... Could things get any better for Valentine on Thursday? Prior to the postgame news conference, the moderator introduced him as Denzel Washington.

MSU vs. Boise State

Tip-off: Friday, 5:30 p.m., Titan Gym, Fullerton, Calif.

TV/radio: ESPN2/WJR

Records: MSU 5-0, Boise State 3-2

Outlook: Boise State beat UC Irvine, 71-64, to advance to its meeting with Michigan State. ... Anthony Drmic leads the Broncos, averaging 18.8 points, while James Webb III averages 14.6.