When Michigan State lost an incredibly-tough game down the stretch at Indiana on Sunday, the immediate, gut-reaction was one of frustration and sorrow. But, on Monday and in the days following, the Spartans and their head coach, Tom Izzo, have certainly come to see that their 17-4 record is one that holds much greater promise than that of their previous 17-3 record.
Michigan State played tough on Sunday night. Despite facing one of the country's toughest opponents in their home arena in Big Ten rivals, the Hoosiers, the Spartans proved that even with the 75-70 loss, they gained something much more valuable: Respect.
"I told you the week before and told my team all week long, we were not a great 17-3 team, we were a good 17-3 team,'' Izzo said on Monday night. "But I thought some consistency was missing, getting one or two guys to play well at the same time was missing.
"I told my team after the game we're a better 17-4 team than we were 17-3 team, not because of moral victories or any of that BS.''
And it looks like the nation agrees, or at least, those in the nation who comprise the USA Today Coaches poll do.
Michigan State moved up from a No. 11-ranking to a season-high No. 9 spot after their close loss to Indiana. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, moved up to a No. 3-ranking after their victory.
And for all accounts, it appears that Tom Izzo agrees with the pollsters, telling the press that he truly feels his team is "better" after suffering their latest defeat.
"It's because we did get more guys playing well, we did do some things we wanted to do,'' Izzo said. "Fatigue and tiredness resulted in some breakdowns because we had some guys in foul trouble.''
In the AP Top 25 poll, Michigan State remained stagnant at a No. 13 ranking, neither rising or falling after the loss.
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