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Column: Don't worry, MSU men's basketball will be fine

November 16, 2017
<p>Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) attempts to shoot a basket as sophomore guard Cassius Winston (5) and redshirt junior forward Kenny Goins (25) attempt to block during the Champions Classic during the game against Duke on Nov. 14, 2017 at the United Center. The Spartans were defeated by the Blue Devils, 81-88.&nbsp;</p>

Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) attempts to shoot a basket as sophomore guard Cassius Winston (5) and redshirt junior forward Kenny Goins (25) attempt to block during the Champions Classic during the game against Duke on Nov. 14, 2017 at the United Center. The Spartans were defeated by the Blue Devils, 81-88. 

Photo by Carly Geraci | The State News

On Tuesday night, MSU fell to Duke 88-81 in basketball. With Duke being #1 in the country, that doesn’t seem like a bad loss, until you remember MSU was a close #2. The Spartans hung tough for about 75 percent of the game but faltered in the end, letting up a slew of Grayson Allen three-pointers and ultimately falling by seven points.

This was a big blow to the morale of Spartan fans, as many, including me, expected this team to run away with the national title. But Duke is no joke. This was a well-played game clearly showcasing two of the best teams in college basketball.

Miles Bridges had 19 points, five assists and four rebounds while fellow young phenom Jaren Jackson Jr. had 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and the Spartans still managed to lose. That shows the elite level Duke plays at. 

In watching that game, we have nothing to worry about. It’s the second game of the season, Coach Izzo is 1-11 against Duke and MSU might be the youngest team in the country that’s not Kentucky. It should have been almost expected.

This team clicks, though. It’s easy to see with their ball movement and defensive rotations that they know how to play together despite being so young. The game was lost on getting beat on the glass and turning the ball over too much. Bridges, Jackson and Cassius Winston combined for 14 turnovers themselves, and those are players -- especially Winston -- that don’t have problems turning the ball over. Nick Ward and Jackson got manhandled on the glass by less physical big men.

Given all these mistakes, MSU still held Duke to a 39.5% shooting rate from the field. If the Spartans could have not been out-rebounded 25-11, the outcome of this game would most likely be different. Not often do you see college basketball teams shoot below 40% from the field and still score almost 90 points. That most likely won’t happen again this season.

Overall, there’s nothing to worry about. This team is stacked with talent. Bridges, despite not having the best game, is still probably the front-runner for National Player of the Year. Jackson is arguably the most athletic player in college basketball and may even get drafted higher than Bridges himself. Role players like Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and Nick Ward would all be stars at most major Division I schools. 

In the end, it matters how you play in March. Not November. If a possible rematch with Duke in a late tournament matchup would be incredible; Coach Izzo will be ready.

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