MSU overcomes 21 turnovers with transition defense and sparkling blocks
By holding down the fort defensively in its win over Iowa, MSU men’s basketball (15-10, 7-5 Big Ten) held the Hawkeyes (14-12, 6-7 Big Ten) to 33 percent shooting from the floor and 19 percent from behind the arc.
The effort stifled Big Ten leading scorer, senior guard Peter Jok, to just 2-for-11 shooting for 13 points. Jok averages over 20 points per game this season and has only been held to single digit scoring just once, against Northwestern.
Consistency problems have been noted throughout this team, however, head coach Tom Izzo said there is one thing the Spartans are consistent at — turning the ball over. In the past two games, MSU has combined for 42 turnovers. In its 29 point defeat to the University of Michigan, MSU had 21 turnovers for 30 points. Against Iowa, MSU again had 21 turnovers, for 21 points.
“You know as well as I do that you can't win big games - I'm not saying this wasn't a big game - but, you can't win against real good teams, you can't win in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA tournament if you turn the ball over 21 times,” Izzo said following the game.
Despite the poor passes, poor ball handling and horrendous court awareness, MSU was able to manage a double-digit win. When diving into the stat sheet, MSU was able to suppress its turnovers with basket-saving plays and locking down in transition.
Within the beginning 4:13 of the first half, Iowa had taken advantage of the Spartans in transition for two quick dunks. One came off of a turnover by freshman forward Miles Bridges and the other basket was because the Spartans were caught celebrating from the layup by junior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.
The Hawkeyes finished the first half with 10 fast break points and led MSU, 32-31. In the second half, MSU gave up zero fast break points and scored 16 of its own. For the complete game, MSU outscored Iowa by 12 on the break – in an 11 point victory.
“We did a better job sprinting back,” Izzo said. “We did a better job when we did turnover, going out and blocking the shot or challenging, they missed a couple of layups. That could have been really ugly as far as points off of turnovers that were direct points. When there were turnovers for touchdowns, Miles saved one, Eron saved one, I think Cassius saved one. So there were some plays there. Transition defense was a big part, I give our kids credit on that.”
The most noteworthy turnover for touchdown save came from the hands of Bridges. As Nairn was setting up the offense, he threw a soft five foot chest pass to Bridges, which was easily stolen by Iowa’s Ahmad Wagner. The chase was on as Wagner appeared to have a simple layup, until Bridges flew to the rim, turning back the shot with a right hand swat.
“I was just trying to make winning plays for my team,” Bridges said. “Tum had passed the ball and I really didn’t get out and get it, so I just wanted to get the ball back.”
Izzo said he takes credit for the turnovers, but wanted to take some credit on the block.
“Well, I just took the blame for the turnovers and I'm going to take the credit for teaching that son of a gun how to block shots,” Izzo said. “It kind of balances out 50/50. It took a lot of work and it took some time. He used to just kind of jump off of one foot and wasn't doing it well enough, so I got him to jump off of two feet. He used to just try to block it with his head, and I got him to use his arm."
MSU men’s basketball will take on Ohio State (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) on Valentine’s Day. The game will tipoff at 9 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
In their last match-up, a struggling Buckeye team rallied at home to defeat the Spartans, 72-67.