AUBURN HILLS, Mich. | Tom Izzo wasn’t shy about addressing the talent differential between his Michigan State squad and Valparaiso after the Spartans won 65-54 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The longtime coach also didn’t try to hide how scared he was by the Crusaders and the chances he thought Valparaiso had at pulling an upset.
“We knew that we were better on paper, but I told the guys that upsets happen for two reasons,” Izzo said. “They happen because guys don’t come in ready to play because they know they are better and they happen because of the 3-point shot. I thought that Valpo could beat us both ways.”
The Crusaders played with Michigan State for the first eight minutes before the Spartans went on a 26-5 run to take control of the game. Valparaiso struggled to hit open shots but still managed to impress Izzo.
“I think we are a little better than them, but I think you didn’t see their best either,” Izzo said. “I think we had something to do with it, but (they’re) a very well-coached team. In fact, I’m going to steal a few things from them."
Salt in the Wound: Two key members of the Valparaiso rotation suffered injuries on Thursday that required medical attention on the sidelines.
Senior big man Kevin Van Wijk cracked his elbow open on the floor and needed his left arm bandaged to stop the bleeding. Van Wijk had blood running down his arm in the locker room and his uniform was filled with stains after the game.
Lavonte Dority left the game and didn’t return in the second half after banging knees with Michigan State guard Keith Appling.
Late to the Dance: More than 50 Valparaiso students awoke before dawn on Thursday to take a bus to Auburn Hills to watch their Crusaders play in the NCAA tournament.
The students didn’t arrive to The Palace until midway through the first half after their bus was delayed by an accident, snowstorm and traffic delays just outside the stadium.
“It was very frustrating but we were able to make due,” Valparaiso senior Josh Sisley said. “We were able to watch the game on our phones until we got there.”
The bus left Valparaiso at five in the morning and departed Auburn Hills after the Memphis/St. Mary’s game. Sisley and his classmates had no issues with spending more than 12 hours in a bus to watch the Crusaders take on Michigan State.
“We’ve never seen them in the NCAA tournament before, so we were excited for this opportunity,” Sisley said. “I’ll take good memories from this experience.”