| Detroit Free Press
Michigan State basketball lost its third straight to open the Big Ten game for the second time in Tom Izzo’s career, an 81-56 loss to Minnesota.
Courtesy of Michigan State Athletics
Before Michigan State basketball started one of the worst Big Ten starts in Tom Izzo’s 26-year career, when the Spartans went 6-0 and among the top five teams in the country, the Hall of Fame coach hinted something .
“We may have to sacrifice ourselves a little early,” said Izzo, two days before MSU froze at Northwestern in Game 1.
The words he used after the Dec. 20 79-65 loss to the Wildcats doomed his players, his staff and himself.
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Those he picked on Monday night after No.18 MSU’s 81-56 loss to No.24 Minnesota were much more cautious, although there was ample evidence pointing to something greater than many missed shots.
The Spartans’ quest for a fourth straight Big Ten title in the regular season took another heavy blow in eight days. MSU (6-3 overall) opened the Big Ten game 0-3 for just the second time in Izzo’s 26 seasons.
And he knows he needs to keep reminding his team that there are only three games left of first place – even if he felt the Spartans were “bottoming out offensively” against the Gophers (9-1, 2- 1).
Thomas Kithier, of the state of Michigan, spoke on December 28, 2020 after the Spartans’ loss to Minnesota about how the offense might be able to get out of its rut.
Michigan State Athletics
” It’s my job. I mean, I get paid to do this. & mldr; It’s a difficult task, ”said Izzo. “Like I said, the conference is going to be good – Minnesota is another good team. But I am not afraid of losing my players.
But there have been some alarming trends.
Izzo rocked his starting lineup in Minnesota, inserting Foster Loyer at the point guard and knocking Aaron Henry off the bench. This turned Rocket Watts into a shooting guard, but his struggles continued. He went 1 for 9 for just two points against the Gophers and is 5 of 29 shooting for just 12 points in three Big Ten games.
Izzo said returning to his natural position was what Watts “wanted” because he wasn’t comfortable at the time.
“I’m just trying to help Rocket get through the things he has to do,” Izzo said. “He was more comfortable all year round (shooting guard). So it’s a bit of the experiences. I mean, these are different experiences you have to do. It’s sad you had to do them during the year, but we knew about this problem from day one. ”
As Watts went, did the rest of the MSU offense.
The Spartans went just 6 of 38 in the first half, missing 10 of 12 3-point attempts, layups and deep shots. The stagnation permeated the sets on the half court. They went 7 minutes, 10 seconds into the period without a basket, missing 12 in a row at one point.
MSU fell behind, 36-16, at halftime, its lowest half since scoring just 14 points on Dec. 30, 2014, in the first half against Maryland.
The poor shot continued, as MSU finished 18 of 70 in the field (25.7%). The Spartans made just six turnovers that led to six points for Minnesota, but Izzo pointed out the long rebounds as a boost to the Gophers’ score.
Henry finished the shot 3-for-10 for a team-record 11 points with four rebounds and three assists, and Izzo said taking the junior off the bench “isn’t going to last.” No other MSU player has scored in double digits.
Loyer finished 2 of 6 for eight points, Joshua Langford 2 of 10 for five points, Joey Hauser scored 1 of 8 for six points, and Gabe Brown missed his five shots losing the score.
“It just wasn’t our night when it comes to shooting the ball,” Loyer said.
While pointing out the offensive gaps, Izzo said, “The good thing is it wasn’t defensive. I will build on that. He felt his guards contained Marcus Carr of Minnesota, who finished 7th of 13 for a record 19 points with five assists and four rebounds.
“Anyone who knows Michigan State knows this is a team that likes to smash offensive glass in transition,” said Robbins. “So we knew it was important to end possession so that we could go into transition and start our attack.
The Spartans had no second chance points on their six offensive rebounds in the first half. The Gophers had a 6-0 advantage on the quick break to go with a dominant 14-2 advantage at the goal post in the opening 20 minutes.
“I have no problem with our defense,” Izzo said. “It was our offense.”
Still, Robbins hit a 3 point over Kithier’s late close to start the game, then pulled Hauser back after that for an easy bucket. Carr’s 3 point drop on Watts to open in a 9-0 run from which MSU never recovered.
Now comes a few days of introspection, more experimentation with line-up combinations, a possible distribution of game rotation, and grueling classless practices. The Spartans travel to Nebraska on Saturday in an attempt to break the losing streak after winning all of their non-conference games. The Cornhuskers (4-5, 0-2) play Wednesday night at Ohio State. Izzo never started 0-4 in Big Ten.
He knows the questions to be answered. He also knows that it is up to him to find the puzzle.
“Are we tough enough?” No. Are we leading enough? No. But those are the same issues when we were 6-0 that I mentioned and need to improve, ”said Izzo. “We will continue to work on it. We will improve for the next game, I promise.
Contact Chris Solari: [email protected] Follow him on twitter @chrissolari. Learn more about the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.
Michigan State’s Foster Loyer has been on various Spartans teams, but none have started 0-3 in the Big Ten. Here’s what he had to say on December 28, 2020.
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