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Tom Izzo Hallway Presser: Michigan State haunted by two plays that got away

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Tom Izzo Hallway Presser: Michigan State haunted by two plays that got away

New York – After 45 minutes of breath-taking basketball, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has a spring and summer to think about dozens of plays that could have changed the direction and possibly the outcome of Thursday’s 98-93 overtime loss to Kansas State in the Sweet 16. 

He talked about the turnovers that Michigan State committed, which led to 16 Kansas State points. He talked about the back cuts that Kansas State executed, beating the Spartans back door several times in a manner that frankly hasn’t been witnessed by a Michigan State team in Izzo’s previous 963 games as head coach. And he talked about some costly missed free throws which cost Michigan State three points in the final 10 minutes. 

But two plays that weren’t made stuck with him longer in the moments after the game: The airball that Malik Hall didn’t retrieve; and the potential 3-point tying shots that Hall, Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker didn’t attempt. 

Hall and Hauser lamented their choices after the game, too. But truth be known, different choices might not have altered the outcome.

Michigan State trailed 94-93 when Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell airballed a 3-pointer from the logo. Hall watched from the right block. Hall took a step out to his man in the corner to box him out, but then saw that the trajectory of the shot was going to be short of the rim.

So Hall took two steps toward the rim, but had to hesitate for a moment because what if the ball was about to graze the front of the rim? What if it caught just a piece of the rim and took a sharp carom? He had to be ready for any of that.

But the ball missed everything. Hall quickly reacted and took another step toward the ball as it bounced near the baseline. If he had put a hand on it as it came down, and it hit the baseline, that would have been out on Hall, Kansas State’s ball, and a disaster.

Instead he saw it bounce as he continued toward the ball. But the ball was heading out of bounds at a rapid pace. It quickly got away from him and he didn’t have much of a chance to step toward it and grab it.

Trying to grab it and throw it back in bounds to save it seemed out of the question. That would be foolish, right? How was he to know that the ball was partially blocked?

As it went out of bounds, Hall assumed, hoped, it was going to be MSU’s ball. But replay showed that AJ Hoggard got a piece of the shot as it left Nowell’s hand. Kansas State was awarded the ball.

While officials checked the replay, Izzo smiled at Hall and said, “Just grab it.”

But it wasn’t that simple.

After the game, Izzo was asked about that play, not having seen the replay.

“That tipped ball, if we get the ball, and we could have had it …” Izzo said. “I don’t blame Malik. He said, ‘Why take a chance?’ But we come down and we’re going to win the damn game.”

Izzo made that comment with a smile, not scorn.

And when Izzo looks at the replay, he will be more understanding of Hall’s mindset. 

Kansas State took advantage of that extra possession when power forward Ismael Massoud became free along the baseline and hit an 18-footer which gave the Wildcats a 96-93 lead. 

K-State executed that baseline in-bound play splendidly. Misdirection led to Hoggard and Jaden Akins guarding the same man while Mossoud slipped by them and to the corner.

Hall saw Massoud coming free and called out for Hoggard to take him. Hall couldn’t take him because Hall had Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who is also a decent shooter.

When Markquis Nowell sent a cross-court, in-bound bounce pass to Massoud, Hall came off of Tomlin and tried to get out on Massoud. He contested the shot, but not well enough against Massoud and the night Massoud was having.

Massoud finished the game 4-of-6 from 3-point range, each of them critical in this close, high-scoring game during which neither team pulled ahead by more than a touchdown. 

“Massoud made some shots, some of them were 3-point plus range,” Izzo said. “Massoud really, really hurt us.”

Massoud’s triples were huge, but that baseline jumper was a dagger.

But Michigan State had a chance to tie the game with a sideline in-bound pass in the final seconds. That’s the other play that raced through Izzo’s mind as the boarded the bus that took the team away from Madison Square Garden.

“We had it,” Izzo said. “We had what we were looking for. We were looking for Tyson off a double screen, but then we were going to pop Joey and Malik and they both had shots and, I don’t know, they thought the other guy would have a better shot.”

Walker wasn’t open when he came off the double screen set by Hauser and Hall. 

But Hauser was open when their double screen became a single pindown pick by Hall. 

Hauser might have had time for a quick-trigger 3-pointer as a defender raced out at him to contest. He definitely had time for a pump fake as the defender flew by, then one dribble and Hauser – a 46-percent 3-point shooter on the year – and something better than 50 percent when wide open from long range, would have had a good chance to tie the game.

But Hauser, after the pump fake, passed to Hall. Hall wasn’t as open as Hauser was. Hall – who hadn’t hit a 3-pointer since Senior Day and was 0 for his last 10 from long range, elected not to try to force a tough 3-pointer over the on-charging, 6-foot-9 David N’Guessan.

Hall pumped, drove and kicked it back out to Walker.

Walker could have launched a shot from the logo. But there were still :08 seconds left. He thought he could create something off the dribble. But when he tried, Nowell was wise to it and stripped him of the ball as he went up for the shot. And the 2022-23 season was all over. 

“The play worked,” Izzo said. “We had the shots, we just didn’t take them.”

But if he’s honest with himself, Izzo will concede that even if Hauser had taken that shot, there still would have been about :08  remaining, and maybe the Wildcats would have broken their hearts anyway. 

“We did some really good things, including that last shot I think would have been,” Izzo said. “We just didn’t pull the trigger.”

The post Tom Izzo Hallway Presser: Michigan State haunted by two plays that got away appeared first on On3.

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