EAST LANSING — As Wednesday’s practice came to a close, and the media scurried to ask Michigan State players questions in preparation for Friday’s season-opening matchup vs. McNeese State, sophomore guard Gary Harris was asked, “Is it hard to concentrate on McNeese State with Kentucky right around the corner?” A question that was brought up multiple times during media-player interactions because of the Spartans’ highly-anticipated matchup vs. No.1-ranked Kentucky on Nov. 12 in Chicago, Ill., in the Champions Classic.
Before Harris could even get his thoughts out, MSU senior Adreian Payne shouted from about 30 feet away, “We’re not allowed to talk about that.”
After a few chuckles from Harris and media pundits, Harris explained that they can’t look ahead.
“We play McNeese first,” Harris said with a laugh after being interrupted by Payne. “You gotta focus on what’s ahead of you, what’s in front of your face right now.”
It’s evident through the comments of Payne and Harris that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo doesn’t want his team thinking ahead, and with that being said, Izzo presented a straight-forward punishment for anyone who does.
“I haven’t shied away from it to tell them, you know, if I catch somebody doing that I’m benching them,” Izzo said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve got to be mature enough to understand that every team is going to come after us now that we are the second-ranked team in the country, third, whatever, in every poll. So, it’s going to be somebody’s Fourth of July and Christmas, and our job is to see if we can get better every day, our job is to see if we can play against the game almost as much as the team.
“I think we’ve played enough big games in this program to where players understand that. You’d have to be stupid not to be somewhat in your mind… I think these guys understand that we’re going to have time after that game to prepare for the next game… and I haven’t seen that a problem at all.”
Michigan State finished the exhibition season 2-0 with decisive victories over Grand Valley State (101-52) and Indiana University (PA) (83-45).
Friday’s home game vs. McNeese State will begin at approximately 7 p.m.
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