Never were those lessons more apparent than in last nights stirring 72-69 come-from-behind win by the Spartans over the Michigan Wolverines.
Down by as many as 12 points in the second half, the Spartans rode the back of one of the most unlikely of heroes, Flint native Kelvin Torbert.
Torbert hit two critical second half three pointers and was the calming influence the Spartans needed as the pressure built late in the game. He finished with 18 points, 15 in the second half, and salted the game away by making two free throws with just 23 seconds left in the game to give Michigan State a three point lead.
Izzo was nearly teary eyed as he contemplated how Torbert stepped up down the stretch.
"It brings tears to my eyes because that kid has not complained the whole time he's been here," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of the junior who has had few big moments in his collegiate career after being one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation prior to committing to the Spartans.
"It feels so good. It's always special to beat your rival," said Torbert. "Hopefully now, we can keep going out and get better and keep playing better. There's a sense of urgency because we've never been in this position before."
Torbert was alluding to Michigan State's precarious NCAA tournament position prior to running off four straight victories and appearing to lock up the Big Ten regular season championship.
For Michigan, it was the same old story.
Despite a sensational performance by freshman Courtney Sims who scored 19 points and added nine rebounds, it was another loss to their cross town rivals, the 10th in the last 11 games.
"It seemed like we had the game in the bag," Sims said of Michigan's 12 point lead late in the game. "We weren't thinking that way, but it seemed like we had control of the game and we let it slip through our fingers."
Torbert saw it differently.
"We played better defense at the end. We really stepped it up defensive-wise and kept our composure. We ran our sets and executed well at the end."
The Spartans Chris Hill's 19 points, including three bombs from well outside the three-point line, help the Spartans overcome a worrisome sub-par effort from sophomore Paul Davis who chipped in with 13 points.
Davis was not strong inside the paint and played small despite being one of the biggest players on the court. Coach Izzo used Jason Andreas for defensive purposes for several minutes late in the ballgame.