Izzo: "We're going to try to run"

Spartans looking to get easy baskets and win in transition against a tough half-court Virginia defense. It won't be easy, but it might be necessary.

It is easy to see what makes Virginia a No. 1 seed – and why it is a tough matchup for Michigan State.

It is a battle of teams that will seek to establish their will on the game.

Virginia brings the staunch defense that holds teams to 55 points per game. Michigan State wants to get out and run in transition to get scoring.

Whichever team wins that battle of conflicting styles could have the upperhand in Friday night's game in New York City.

"We're a much better team when we get out in transition," point guard Keith Appling said. "We can't let them hold us in the halfcourt and kind of bottle us up.

"We just wanna try to get out in transition and get as many easy baskets as we can."

The Spartans have found a good degree of success when they have been able to get points in transition, especially in its recent five-game winning streak since postseason play began.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said what makes the Spartans so good in transition is the variety of ways they can attack once they get out and run.

"What I think is unique about Michigan State is that they're complete when they run," he said. "It's not they have one guy who can buzz up the floor off the dribble and they go to the rack. They will do that, they can get there with their players, but they also will kick it up, spread it with their shooters, they've got rim runners and it's what they do when the drill it. …

"I think this is one of (Tom Izzo's) best teams in transition that I've seen."

It will be Virginia's goal to take away those points on the fast break – "That's been one of our keys all year," Cavaliers forward Akil Mitchell said – but if they do, it becomes a pick your poison scenario.

"They send a lot of guys back," Izzo said. "It's been the culture that (Bennett) has developed there, not giving up easy shots. We're going to try to run, but that's going to be the end all be all if they take that way because then they're not offensive rebounding as well.

"You give us something to get something."

There is no doubt the Spartans want to get easy buckets in a game that figures to be a low-scoring affair. But can the Spartans impose their will on a team that forces teams to try to get points in a half-court setting?

"I think we are going to stick to what we do and that's what we do," senior Adreian Payne said. "I think we have a great chance at being able to run it. That's what we do.

"We run and that's what we gotta do. We gotta make sure we get our break going."

Payne said he expects the Cavaliers to get back on defense. If that is the case, it means the Spartans' forward will see double teams when he gets the ball in the post and have to make good decisions.

Guard Travis Trice said with the way Payne is playing – and add in the fact that he has seen double teams from some teams recently – the Spartans have looked at how to handle Virginia doubling down on the senior.

"After seeing the way they've done it, we've tried a couple ways to do it," Trice said, "but we know once they double we've gotta get it out quickly and get to the other side because that's when we can do our damage.

It also will fall on Trice, Appling and the rest of Michigan State's guards to slash and get penetration, but also to knock down shots from the outside.

"They kind of cut off all drives to make teams shoot from the outside," sophomore Gary Harris said. "It's going to be a challenge, probably the toughest defense we've played all year.

"I think we're up for the challenge."


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