Covering the Land of Lincoln

Rivalry revelry fades with road trips ahead

EAST LANSING — Tom Izzo saw plenty of positives in Michigan State basketball’s win over Michigan.

The improvement of AJ Hoggard. Increased aggressiveness from Tyson Walker. A defense that continues to smother its opponents. And so on.

Then after the Spartans’ 59-53 victory, their fifth straight at Breslin Center over UM, Izzo celebrated the triumph Saturday night at his house for their annual alumni reunion. Wins over the Wolverines tends to make the party even better, for the Hall of Fame coach along with his current and former players.

“It was one of those memory-making days,” Izzo said Saturday. “And that’s what I tell players — ‘You’re gonna come back here in five years, and it’s the memories that you have.’ There’s certain games that mean more than others, certain games that last in your memory bank. And it’s always gonna be your rival. …I’m gonna enjoy tonight.”

All while knowing that rivalry revelry must be fleeting.

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Saturday was the second of nine games in a 27-day span for MSU (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten) that started with a Tuesday win over Nebraska. The victory over Michigan also closed a five-game homestand, and the Spartans now take their six-game win streak on the road for back-to-back games this week.

“You definitely get a momentum piece, but we don’t want to ride it too much and get too overzealous or happy with ourselves about a win like this,” senior Malik Hall said. “This is a good win, but we still have a really big stretch ahead of us.”

Up first is a trip to No. 15 Wisconsin (11-3, 3-1) on Tuesday. That is followed three days later by a 9 pm game Friday at Illinois inside an always-venomous State Farm Center.

“You can carry the momentum,” said senior Joey Hauser, a Wisconsin native who will make his second trip to play in his home state as a Spartan. “I think you gotta put behind just kind of emotional side of it. You beat Michigan, you beat your rival, with all of the alumni back — you gotta kind of put that behind you. Once tonight is over, obviously we’ll celebrate and we’ll enjoy the win. But come tomorrow, we gotta be ready to go and just kind of learn from what we did good, learn what we can do better, and then scout Wisconsin.”

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The Spartans play every third day for the next two weeks. After the trip to Champaign, Illinois, MSU welcomes No. 1 Purdue for a Martin Luther King Day matinee at Breslin Center on Jan. 16 and then hosts gritty Rutgers on Jan. 19. Three days later, it’s back on the road to No. 19 Indiana for a Sunday afternoon grind at Assembly Hall.

There is an extra day between the trip to Bloomington and the Spartans’ home game with Iowa on Jan. 26, but then it is right back to a three-day window and a Jan. 29 return trip to face the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana.

MSU gets some respite after that Sunday afternoon game at Mackey Arena before heading to face the Scarlet Knights in a Feb. 4 Madison Square Garden matinee. By the time they get to New York, though, the Spartans will be past the halfway point in the 20-game Big Ten schedule and have a better idea of ​​the importance of the final nine games will hold toward chasing a conference championship.

“The schedule we got here in the next these nine, 10 days is off the charts,” Izzo said early Saturday evening. “And we’re gonna have to get right back to work in the morning. But not tonight.”

Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.

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Next up: Badgers

matchup: Michigan State (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten) at No. 15Wisconsin (11-3, 3-1).

tip off: 7 pm Tuesday; Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin.

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