DETROIT (AP) -Tom Izzo has screamed at Goran Suton more than any other Michigan State player the past four seasons.
It seems to be paying off.
Suton is averaging 14.3 points and 11.5 rebounds in the NCAA tournament, making a couple more shots and grabbing a few more rebounds than he did this season, quieting his hard-driving coach.
``We are down to the nitty, gritty, and our relationship is probably the best that it has ever been,'' Suton said Thursday. ``It has been a tough love type of thing. He always jokes that he doesn't know if he loves me or hates me, but I can tell you right now that I love him.''
The feeling is mutual.
``You won't find a better kid, a better student, a better person, a better teammate,'' Izzo insisted. ``I just want him to learn to work harder every single minute he's on the court.''
the past two weeks.
``It's a gift and a curse,'' he said. ``All the attention gets a little annoying, but you have to feel good about getting to Detroit.''
The second-seeded Spartans are playing close to campus in the Final Four, where they will face top-seeded Connecticut on Saturday night.
As impressive as the 6-foot-10 Suton has been, he hasn't seen anything quite like the Huskies' formidable frontline.
Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-3 center, will make it difficult for Suton score inside if he gets past 6-7, 243-pound Jeff Adrien.
``It's a real luxury having him back there,'' Adrien said. ``He's like a safety blanket - nice and warm.''
Suton's interactions with Izzo have been anything but warm and fuzzy since recruiting him from Lansing Everett - where Magic Johnson played before becoming a Spartan - and getting rubbed the wrong way by his happy-go-lucky personality.
``One of my problems is I always think my players can be better than sometimes they think they can,'' Izzo said.
Suton redshirted his first season, when Michigan State advanced to the 2005 Final Four. After scoring just three points a game as a freshman, he averaged nine-plus points and seven-plus rebounds over his sophomore and junior seasons.
Suton missed six games early in the season, including the 35-point loss to North Carolina at Ford Field, with a sore left knee that needed minor surgery in December.
e bounced back well enough to become the first Spartan to lead the conference in rebounding since Antonio Smith in 1997 and averaged 10 points, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Suton, though, didn't do much to foreshadow how he would play in the NCAA tournament.
He scored a season-high 20 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five steals in the regional semifinals against Kansas. He had 17 of his 19 points in the first half and grabbed 10 rebounds against Louisville to send the Spartans home for the Final Four.
``It's not easy to shoot comfortably in the middle of Louisville's defense like he did,'' Adrien said. ``I've played against them, so that really impressed me.''
Suton humbly has deflected credit for his breakout performances to Izzo.
``He is the reason for a lot of my success now,'' Suton said.

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