Margin for error "paper thin" for MSU

Spartans know each possession matters come March -- a lesson learned last weekend -- and hope to win despite the small margin for error.

In the aftermath of last weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State coaches handed out a poem to the players Monday.

It is a poem assistant video coordinator Doug Herner – whom Tom Izzo called “my old man up there” – has and it is called “It’s Only One Possession.” The message is clear: One play can make the difference.

And in March, that is more a reality for Michigan State this year than it has been in recent years.

”You always hear this in sports: The margin for error is very slim,” Izzo said. “With us, it’s paper thin and yet we’ve learned how to live with that.”

The No. 7 seed Spartans open at 12:40 p.m. Friday against No. 10 seed Georgia in Charlotte, N.C., with that understanding.

It is a team that can’t afford many little mistakes – something that was made evident as the Spartans fell to Wisconsin. But the play has mostly been at a higher level of late, as the Spartans rallied off four straight wins against NCAA Tournament teams prior to losing to Wisconsin, which it had on the ropes late.

So lesson learned.

“Every possession counts,” senior Branden Dawson said. “I think with the team we have, our margin for error, it’s not big. We can’t have the mistakes. We can’t have the letdowns and we just have to really close out games and finish them out.”

The Spartans have played in plenty of games that were tight down the stretch – 14 of 22 in the Big Ten and Big Ten Tournament. So it is nothing new to be playing with important possessions in crunch time, but the success has varied. Free-throw issues late have been a problem that has been lesser of late, but the reality remains that a complete game is essential in March, when it is win or go home.

And without key players like Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling from last season, the margin is left smaller than it was as MSU made a run last year to the Elite Eight.

”Having those three adds the margin for error,” senior Travis Trice said. “Just with this team, the makeup of this team, we are not as deep as last year and we gotta play every possession and value every possession.”

Junior Matt Costello echoed that thought – the one expressed in the poem that the hope will serve to motivate with the season on the line in each game from here on out.

And the Spartans hope to come with a better outcome than the end of the poem, which ends with the player and his team losing.

“One possession, one free throw, one turnover, one pass – those are what wins games,” Costello said.

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