EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -Michigan State forward Goran Suton is a pretty laid-back guy.
His coach, Tom Izzo, is not.
``Sometimes him and I are water and oil in that respect,'' Izzo said.
Hence the background for one of the longer-running soap operas in the Michigan State program. Spartans players and coaches uniformly like the easygoing and good-natured Suton, but they wish he was that way less often on the basketball court.
Quietly, the 6-foot-10 junior has been a key factor in Michigan State's better and more consistent play over the past month. Suton is a key reason the fifth-seeded Spartans (27-8) find themselves preparing for a game against No. 1 seed Memphis (35-1) in a South Region semifinal Friday in Houston.
The winner plays the winner of Texas-Stanford on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Suton is coming off one of his better performances - a 14-point, 9-rebound effort in a win over Pittsburgh in the tournament's second round. But if Izzo is hesitant to heap too much praise on Suton despite that solid showing, it's understandable. He wants Suton to play hungry and isn't about to let him get satisfied after one good game.
``He has given me credit in the past,'' Suton said. ``And it hasn't turned out well afterward. I think he's learned from his mistake.''
Teammates note Suton's good efforts but are reluctant to give him too many compliments. They want him to build on his success against Pitt.
``Can't pat him on the back right now,'' guard and co-captain Travis Walton said. ``We don't need anybody else patting him on the back, either. We need to tell him he can be better and do more for us.''
Even Suton himself is hesitant to acknowledge that, in the past month or so, he may have begun to find the consistency that's been eluding him since he arrived at Michigan State.
``I don't want to say that,'' he said. ``I don't want to jinx myself.''
Suton said he had a mental breakthrough in a meeting with Izzo and other Spartans big men before a 57-42 loss at Wisconsin on Feb. 28. Suton was one of Michigan State's few bright spots against the Badgers, collecting 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Suton has averaged 9.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in the Spartans' past eight games, slightly above his season averages. He has cut down on turnovers. His stronger showing began just a few games after a loss at Indiana in which he didn't take a shot and grabbed just one rebound in 16 minutes.
Izzo expects more from Suton because of his high basketball IQ, nose for rebounds and good shooting and passing skills.
``He's getting hungrier to be a real good player instead of just good,'' Izzo said. ``And good is OK. Most of our society lives in good because they are afraid to try to get to great. And that's my job to make sure they try to push themselves to great.''
Suton grew up outside Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. His family relocated from the war-torn area and eventually settled in Lansing, where Suton attended high school.
Suton has fought a reputation for being ``soft'' since his arrival at Michigan State - particularly with Izzo, who rode Suton about being out of shape early in his career.
Suton has cut fat and added some muscle to his 245-pound frame. But his mental evolution, including his level of devotion to basketball, is ongoing.
``When I first came here, I liked basketball,'' Suton said. ``Over this period of years, I have come to love basketball. It's changing me. And therefore I am starting to agree with (Izzo) more and understanding what he wants from me. The end result is he wants what's best for me and best for this team.''

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