Chemistry, Team Effort Propelling Spartans

"I think we're not too far away. We just have a little more growing up to do," Spartan forward Raymar Morgan says. "We just have to be more consistent, finish games, and I think we'll be pretty close. The talent is definitely there, so it's up to us."

EAST LANSING — The team with the most talent is not always the best team. The best of the best usually have great chemistry to boot.

Of course, chemistry isn't the only factor. A coach must have guys on the court that can make plays.

Finding the perfect combination of talent and continuity isn't always the easiest thing to do, especially at a top tier program like Michigan State, where most of the players were thought extremely highly of when they arrived on campus.

It is up to the coach to instill a concept of team in all of the players, but more importantly it is up to the players themselves to make the sacrifices that are necessary for the team to succeed.

"It's basically like you're starting all over again like you did when you were a freshman in high school," freshman Delvon Roe said after practice on Monday. "You're back to being a nobody. You have to build up that reputation of being the player that you were in high school."

This Spartan team possesses many selfless players that are willing to do what it takes for the betterment of the program, but there have been many things that the players have had to adjust to.

"Not being able to start. All my life I've been starting, and now coming here it's a totally different thing," freshman Korie Lucious said. "It's something that I have to do and get used to. I'm still working on it. It's been hard, but at the same time, I'm working at it and I'm getting better at it."

Another adjustment returning players needed to make was learning how to play without Spartan stalwart Drew Neitzel. Last season, a large percentage of each possession was predicated on getting Neitzel the ball.

There have been many other reasons that have slowed the Spartans' progress to becoming one cohesive unit.

The knee injuries to Goran Suton and Delvon Roe, and implementation of the freshman class, and the significantly increased roles of the Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen were all factors in the lack of chemistry that MSU displayed early in the season.

Ever since the Spartans defeated Texas in Houston, they have looked like a completely different team. It is no coincidence that the Texas game coincided with the return of Suton, but nonetheless Michigan State has looked like a team that is coming together on both sides of the ball.

Coach Tom Izzo feels that there is still work to be done.

"Early it was offense that was really good. I think more recently our defense has been really good," Izzo said. "I think last week, I didn't do a good enough job in spending enough time on our offense, and yet it's hard to find time for everything."

The vast improvement on defense has been apparent in the numbers. During the Spartans' current nine game winning streak, they are holding their opponents to 38.9 percent shooting from the field and only 61.8 points per game. The causes for the turnaround on defense are pretty clear to Lucious.

"I think the communication, as well as the effort," he said. "At the beginning of the season, we harped on defense, defense, defense, but I don't think we bought into it. We see that we need to play defense and everybody is putting forth the effort."

The improved continuity has moved the Spartans in the right direction and closer to the level at which many feel they can ultimately reach.

"I think we're not too far away. We just have a little more growing up to do," forward Raymar Morgan said. "We just have to be more consistent, finish games, and I think we'll be pretty close. The talent is definitely there, so it's up to us."

MO PETE HONORED

During this Saturday's 4 p.m. game against Illinois, former Spartan All-American Morris Peterson will have his No. 42 retired.

Peterson was a part of three Big Ten Championship teams from 1998 to 2000. "Mo Pete" also played on two Big Ten Tournament title teams (1999, 2000), two Final Four teams (1999, 2000) and a National Championship team (2000).


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