Turnovers, frustrations to blame in meltdown loss to rival Wolverines
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Revenge is a dish best served cold, but for MSU (14-10, 6-5 Big Ten) Tuesday night’s 86-57 blowout loss to the University of Michigan Wolverines (15-9, 5-6 Big Ten) was a product of ill preparation and poor execution.
The Wolverines used the merciless 29-point victory as reckoning for the 1,081 days without a win against their rival, payback against the Spartans who came in on a five-game winning streak against U-M, retribution for MSU’s win over the Wolverines at the Breslin Center just nine days prior and comeuppance for last season’s 16-point win against U-M on its own floor at the Crisler Center nearly an entire year later.
The Wolverines started the game on a 6-0 run in the first 2:02 of play after a series of blundered plays by MSU’s frontcourt resulted in two missed field goals and two-straight shot clock violations. U-M held the lead for the entire game.
Three-point defense was once again a hindrance — missed defensive assignments left U-M shooters wide open and allowed for 10 triples on 21 shots, with eight of those triples coming in the first half. Miscommunications led to four shot-clock violations and a season-high 21 turnovers.
Three of MSU’s four freshmen started the game — guard Josh Langford, and forwards Nick Ward and Miles Bridges. Langford finished the game scoreless in 16 minutes, Ward finished with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting with a technical foul and Bridges scored a team-high 15 points with five turnovers. Freshman point guard Cassius Winston came off the bench for three points, four assists and six turnovers.
“It started out bad and it got worse,” Izzo said in his opening statement following the loss. “I think our freshmen looked like a bunch of freshmen against a bunch of juniors and seniors.”
Izzo stressed on Monday preventing opponents from scoring on MSU’s turnovers was a point of emphasis in recent practices. U-M scored 22 points on the team’s 12 turnovers in the first half, and 30 off mishaps by the end of regulation.
“Some of them were just dumb turnovers,” Bridges said of the team’s turnovers. “Just passing it to the other team, some of them were us being too aggressive.”
Ward was called for a technical after tripping U-M sophomore forward Moritz Wagner at the end of the first half. Izzo said a decision on Ward’s conduct would come after further review but called the allegation of intentionally tripping Wagner “inexcusable.”
Grayson Allen or Nick Ward? pic.twitter.com/wIoQiWL2wh— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) February 8, 2017
After the game, Ward insisted he did not trip Wagner on purpose.
MSU’s loss on Tuesday was the team’s eighth away from the Breslin, and its fourth in the last six games. Even with the weighted implications of a rivalry matchup, the Spartans have struggled to keep a continuous train of focus for games on the road.
“We just didn’t come out to play,” Winston said. “(Coaches) told us that the whole game we didn’t come ready. We weren’t prepared for a game like this, especially a game like this being such a big game.”
With 42 seconds left and the Spartans trailing by 29 points, Izzo took his final timeout to display the in-state rivalry in its full heat when the team was down and out in hostile territory, something Izzo said the freshmen couldn’t grasp coming into the game.
“It showed just how much this rivalry means to us,” Bridges said. “I don’t like them at all and I wish we would have beat them by 30, but it didn’t happen that way. It sucks our seniors won’t be able to get another chance to play against Michigan, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The next step for MSU as it gets ready to host Iowa on Saturday will be translating progress made in practice to results on the court. Izzo said his team had its best practices of the season leading up to the game Tuesday, and in order for the team’s growth to continue MSU will have to execute when it matters most.
“We haven’t had many of those days where it was a complete meltdown, today was one of them,” Izzo said. “The last step you have to take to become a real good team is can you take practice to a game — and we did not take practice to a game.”