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Two losses in New York provide lessons for team

November 26, 2001

The phrase “road test” is a favorite coaching cliché for a reason.

For the No. 13 MSU men’s basketball team, the two losses on the road in New York at the Preseason NIT provided many lessons for a team with little experience away from East Lansing.

“I think our guys are a little shy, it’s a confidence factor there,” MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo said. “I think that’s going to happen when we go on the road - some because of our youth. “We don’t know how to play on the road yet, we don’t know who will take over a game yet. We need to improve in that area.”

And improvements need to come quickly, before the Spartans play No. 11 Virginia in Richmond at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2.

“Something is going to have to change whether I change the lineup again, whether I do something to get people shots off the sets - we’ll have to make some adjustments,” Izzo said.

“We’re going to build on the pluses we had tonight (against Fresno), but really start addressing the minuses.”

The two unsettling losses - a 69-58 decision to No. 18 Syracuse and a 63-58 give to No. 23 Fresno State- netted 42 MSU turnovers.

That needs to change if MSU wants to win, sophomore point guard Marcus Taylor said.

“We have to cut down on turnovers,” Taylor said. “I think if we do that, even though we had less in the second game than the first, we can’t have things like that if we want to win.”

And Izzo said he may revamp the lineup this week to move freshman combo guard Chris Hill to point guard.

If Izzo made that switch, it would free up Taylor, MSU’s best shooter, to see more time and scoring opportunities as a shooting guard.

“Your best players have to play well if you’re going to win games,” Izzo said. “And I think Marcus is struggling a little bit, and we need him to play better so we’re going to look at some things.

“He’s not shooting well off the dribble, and I still need him to score. I still think he’s our best player and I think he’s capable of playing a lot better than he is. And so we’re really going to experiment with some things to help him so he can help us, and I think that’s critical.”

The Preseason NIT showcased two critical could-have wins for the Spartans.

And not capitalizing at the end of back-to-back close games haunts the team, freshman guard Kelvin Torbert said.

“Both of these games we were in until the end,” said Torbert, who had 12 points over the weekend. “In situations at the end we didn’t make smart decisions. Basically that is something we just got to learn how to do.”

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