If what doesnt kill you makes you stronger, the Spartan mens basketball team can find strength in its loss to Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last Friday.
The Spartans (19-11) came out lethargic and couldnt match the Hoosiers high intensity. The result: a 67-56 loss where MSU committed 21 turnovers.
Leading into the loss, MSU was on a five-game winning streak where they never committed more than 15 turnovers.
Sophomore guard Marcus Taylor turned the ball over six times against the Hoosiers pressure defense and said his 10th-seeded team cannot make the same mistakes when it battles No. 7 seed North Carolina State on Friday in the first round of NCAA Tournament action.
We have to make it a learning experience, Taylor said. We have to make sure we dont make the same mistakes that we did against Indiana.
The Wolfpack (22-10) use a similar defensive principle as the Hoosiers - hard-nosed man-to-man pressure defense.
We have to play very gritty and tough on both ends of the floor, Wolfpack guard Archie Miller said. Were going to do exactly what weve been doing.
There has to be a certain toughness level that you have to compete at for us to be a successful team.
The Wolfpack average more steals (7.9 per game) and forced turnovers (13.5 per game) than the Hoosiers and will try to hassle the Spartan ballhandlers when the two teams meet.
Taylor said MSU has to respond differently to N.C. States defense than they did to Indianas.
Theyre very athletic and they press up as soon as you cross half-court, Taylor said. Its going to be a tougher game on the guards, and we have to make sure we protect the ball and cut down on the turnovers.
Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said its no secret that turnovers play a crucial factor on the final outcome of his teams games.
Its a concern because I think if you look at our turnovers in our wins and losses, there is a direct correlation, he said. I think when we turn the ball over quite a bit its almost an automatic (loss).
But pressure doesnt guarantee MSU will turn over the ball. Izzo said his team has handled the press well at times and turned over the ball against teams that dont defend with much pressure - citing MSUs 26 turnovers against Syracuse, a 69-58 loss on Nov. 21.
Taylor said MSU ran into a defensive pressure against Indiana, but many of the turnovers could have been avoided.
They played great defense, but I think it was our mental mistakes that hurt us, he said. We made some unnecessary turnovers and they played some tight defense and sometimes we got rattled.
Associate head coach Brian Gregory said pressure-defense disrupting the Spartans offense has been an area of worry all season.
Thats been one of the things all year long as something we needed to focus on - being able to handle defensive pressure man-to-man, Gregory said. It goes at our inexperience and our lack of depth.
But Gregory said MSU has been able to capitalize on high-pressure defenses at times, and doing so against the Wolfpack is critical.
They cant pressure on the outside and guard us on the inside, he said. Thats one area where our inside guys need to step up.
Weve got to make sure we take advantage of that.