After the MSU men’s basketball team lost to Michigan for the first time in three years last Thursday, I wrote that it couldn’t get any worse for the 2010-11 Spartans.
A little less than one week later, it’s pretty obvious I jumped the gun with that conclusion. Because not only was Wednesday night’s 72-52 embarrassment against Iowa a new low for this season, it also might have been the worst loss of the Tom Izzo era.
Losing to the rival Wolverines at Breslin Center for the first time since 1997 was bad.
Getting absolutely pummeled by Iowa — the worst team in the Big Team — though?
Much like Izzo after the game while talking with the Spartan Sports Network, I’m at a loss for words as to how to describe that disaster.
But I’m still going to try.
From the opening minutes, Wednesday’s massacre at the hands of the Hawkeyes was as painful to watch as the football team’s blowout loss not too far away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena earlier this year.
Less than 15 minutes into the game, the Spartans were down, 30-8 — yes, that’s 22 points — to a team that had one win in nine conference games.
This is an Iowa team that boasts non-conference losses to South Dakota State and Long Beach State. (Wait, who?)
The Hawkeyes shot almost 70 percent from the field in the first half.
MSU’s last five opponents have shot the ball well, but it felt like they were making tough shots more than the Spartans failing to defend.
That wasn’t the case Wednesday.
Iowa did whatever it wanted to for 40 minutes, hitting wide open shots all over the floor. Of course, MSU didn’t help the cause, as the Spartans’ 16 turnovers led to layup after layup for the Hawkeyes.
Ranked No. 2 at the beginning of the season, the state of the MSU basketball program has gone from bad to worse in a heartbeat.
The worst part about Wednesday was not the missed shots, sloppy ball handling or blown defensive assignments. It was the fact that midway through the first half, most of the Spartans already quit.
They’ll never admit it, but for anyone watching, it was painfully obvious.
There were a few players who kept fighting (sophomore center Derrick Nix and freshman center Adreian Payne come to mind), but for the most part, MSU packed it in before it had evens scored 10 points.
Senior guard Kalin Lucas scored 17 points, but played just seven minutes in the second half.
Izzo said after the game Lucas was benched for “a lot of different reasons.”
One of those reasons could have been the fact he and fellow senior guard Durrell Summers, who appeared to be half asleep the entire night, have failed to fulfill the duties expected of seniors all season long.
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“Your best players have to play well, and your seniors have to be your leaders,” Izzo told Spartan Sports Network. “That hasn’t happened.”
It has happened in spurts this year, but when MSU has needed its seniors most, they’ve been virtually nonexistent.
Lucas and Summers are two of the most talented players in the Big Ten, and as long as the two of them are on the same team, losses such as Wednesday’s should never come close to happening.
Yet here we are, trying to figure out how a preseason national title contender can lose to basement-dwelling Iowa.
In my eyes, it’s pretty obvious, though.
The Spartans have all the talent in the world, but a will to win or pride in the product they put on the court are two things they lack severely.
Following the U-M loss, many began to wonder if Izzo’s 13-season streak of NCAA Tournament appearances was in jeopardy.
Tonight, it seems all but over.
And while I know MSU fans — some of the most loyal in the country — will never give up their team, it unfortunately appears the Spartans already have given up on themselves.
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