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Coach Tom Izzo stews as Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team opens season with win over Eastern Michigan

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING — Tom Izzo stewed while seated instead of shouting and standing as he led No. 13 Michigan State to an 83-67 season-opening win over Eastern Michigan on Wednesday night, two-plus weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.

“The only people happy were those zebras, those officials, because I sat there most of the game,” Izzo said.

Izzo was certainly pleased with the play of his point guard.

Foster Loyer made a career-high six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 20 points after earning the start over Rocket Watts, filling a key role on the team without NBA-bound Cassius Winston.

“Foster played better defensively than he did the first two years and that keeps him on the floor,” Izzo said.

Loyer made a flurry of 3-pointers to help the Spartans (1-0) pull away in the first half following a sluggish start against the Eagles’ zone defense.

“Our guys did a great job of finding open shooters and I was glad to see a couple go down,” he said.

Eastern Michigan (0-1) had three players on the bench, and put just two reserves in the game. The team was missing six student-athletes and assistant coach Kevin Mondro.

“They were out for COVID reasons, contact tracing,” Eagles coach Rob Murphy said. “None of the guys tested positive, but we had a manager test positive.”

Eastern Michigan’s Yeikson Montero scored 16, Ty Groce had 14 points and Darion Spottsville added 10 points.

Izzo thanked Murphy for bringing his short-handed team to play.

“He could’ve canceled out of this game when he lost those big guys to COVID,'” Izzo said.

The pandemic delayed the start of the college basketball season by a couple weeks. It also affected Michigan State’s preparations because Izzo tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.

The Hall of Fame coach isolated at home for two weeks, dating to his first sign of symptoms, and returned to his on-campus office on Monday.

Izzo, like the rest of the coaches and players on the bench, covered his mouth and nose with a mask. Chairs for both teams were set up for social distancing by using two rows and wrapping them along the baseline.