The Gonzaga Bulldogs don't lose at the kennel. That's partly because top-quality opponents refuse to play there. But Tom Izzo isn't afraid of a challenge. Since a pair of season-opening losses, the Spartans have grown up a lot, highlighted by Saturday night's 74-67 win.
I only saw the second half, as I was coming home from the hockey game, so only a half-analysis here.
No doubt Draymond Green was the key to victory for MSU, scoring a career-high 34 points, but the team defense stepped up big. Again, I only saw the second half, but that appeared to be one of the best interior performances from MSU in quite a long time. The Spartans shot 57 percent on two-point field goals (54 percent overall) while holding the Bulldogs to 40 percent on two-point shots and 43 percent for the game. Gonzaga entered the game shooting 47 percent on two-point shots for the game. Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix shot a combined 19-for-23.
The Spartans were outrebounded 28-25, but it was not unexpected, as the Gonzaga frontcourt is one of the taller ones out there. Derrick Nix led MSU with six boards and chipped in eight points in 18 minutes.
Back to the defense, MSU continued to get hands all over the ball, recording 10 steals. The Bulldogs had 20 turnovers for the game. Keith Appling had eight points, but more importantly, he had seven assists and just two turnovers.
But it all came down to Green. He shot 11-for-13 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line. Green told Joe Rexrode it was the most patience he had all year, and it showed.
Coming into the year, if you said MSU would split the four games against UNC, Duke, Florida State and Gonzaga, you would take it in a heartbeat. This MSU team is different than the one that played in those first two games. It's coming together and the winning streak is now at eight. As Izzo always says, that's why you play those games.
The Spartans now have finals week off before returning to play Bowling Green next Saturday.
(Video from ESPN.com)