Michigan State's Goran Suton answers a question at the men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday.
Michigan State’s Goran Suton answers a question at the men’s Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday.

DETROIT — 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.”

Suton’s play and past — which includes escaping war-torn Bosnia as a child and avoiding land mines near his backyard hoop when he returned — has made his story a compelling 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.

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.

He 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.

Suton humbly has deflected credit for his breakout performances to Izzo.

“He is the reason for a lot of my success now,” Suton said.