Sunday, April 21, 2024

Team needs better effort to keep lead

Alex Altman

If games were played on paper, the MSU men’s basketball team would have had Saturday’s game against Indiana wrapped up before the singing of the national anthem.

MSU entered the game with the best record in the Big Ten; Indiana had the worst. MSU ranked first in scoring offense; Indiana ranked second to last. MSU is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament; Indiana will need a minor miracle just to make the NIT.

But there the Hoosiers were, statistics be damned, bidding to pull ahead of the mighty Spartans early in the second half.

Consecutive baskets put Indiana within three, and after MSU bricked its third straight shot to open the period, Indiana was threatening to pull even closer.

“The mind-set was really just don’t panic, stick to our stuff and try to get some stops,” sophomore guard Durrell Summers said.

“Guys weren’t making shots, so we were trying to get it done on the defensive end. Defense wins championships, offense sells tickets.”

MSU wound up getting the stops it needed, as it closed the game on a 42-17 tear to defeat Indiana 75-47 in one of the ugliest 28-point wins you’ll ever see.

The Spartans shot 42.4 percent from the field, 67.9 percent from the free-throw line and 28.6 percent from 3-point range.

They also committed 10 turnovers, while receiving just 33 total points from their five starters.

Summers and Kalin Lucas, who have been MSU’s go-to players since Raymar Morgan was benched with walking pneumonia, combined to shoot 5-of-26 from the field, including 0-of-11 from 3-point range.

Although missed shots hindered the Spartans from pulling away, they were not the reason MSU found itself in a dogfight with last-place Indiana for most of the game. It was because they played 22 minutes of uninspired, indifferent basketball.

MSU settled for contested jump shots when higher percentage shots were available inside, committed a litany of careless turnovers and simply lacked the competitive fervor that fueled the team Wednesday night against Minnesota.

Draymond Green was the only MSU player who competed with the vigor you would expect from someone donning a green and white jersey.

The freshman forward scored 15 points and gathered 12 rebounds — both career highs — and brought more electricity to the game than Thomas Edison.

Although Green’s play was inspiring, it also was frustratingly indicative of a team that still needs someone to take over the leadership reins.

It shouldn’t take the efforts of a reserve freshman forward to galvanize his slothful team.

That burden should be on the seniors, who simply didn’t step up when their team needed a floor leader.

If the Spartans are going to stay atop the Big Ten the rest of the season, the burden of leadership needs to be on the battle-tested seniors — not just in the locker room, but also on the court.

They can get away with a lackluster effort against Indiana, but if they play with such apathy against Purdue, Illinois or even Michigan, the team will see its lead in the conference quickly evaporate.

Alex Altman is a State News men’s basketball reporter. He can be reached at

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