BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The men’s basketball team did a lot of things well on Saturday during the game against Indiana.
The No. 5 Spartans had more assists, more bench points and more blocks than the Hoosiers. They also held the Hoosiers to a season-low 29 percent field goal percentage.
So why were the Spartans only able to win by three points in Bloomington, Indiana? Because they were dominated in a statistical category MSU basketball teams historically don’t get dominated in—rebounding.
In No. 5 MSU’s 63-60 win over Indiana, the Hoosiers out-rebounded the Spartans, 53-29.
After Saturday’s win, head coach Tom Izzo said through the years he’s been able to stomach subpar victories by his teams, even if he wasn’t always left satisfied by their performances.
“I’ve had some incredible wins and disappointing losses over my career, and I’ve had a few wins that I didn’t feel very good about,” Izzo said. “Sometimes we turn the ball over a zillion times, like at Michigan with 26 points off turnovers to our seven. That bothers you. Sometimes, back in the day, you’d shoot 20 percent from the field, and that bothers you.”
Izzo couldn’t turn the other cheek after his latest win, however. For the Hall of Fame coach, unlike with other statistical areas, his team's rebounding effort against Indiana was an aspect he couldn’t ignore.
“This program has been built on heart and toughness, and tonight we weren’t the tougher team,” Izzo said.
The Hoosiers collected 22 more offensive rebounds than the Spartans, and grabbed nine offensive boards within the first nine minutes of play.
Despite pulling out a victory in a hostile road environment against a team that took No. 3 Purdue down to the wire almost one week ago, junior guard Matt McQuaid, who hit a 3-pointer with just more than a minute left to seal MSU’s win on Saturday, said the team losing their identity in the midst of that win doesn’t sit well.
“A win is a win, but we pride ourselves on that physicalness and toughness that we didn’t show tonight, so it doesn’t make that win as good,” McQuaid said. McQuaid scored a team-high 12 points in Saturday's game.
Before Saturday’s game, MSU had only gotten out-rebounded on two other occasions all season: a Nov. 14 meeting with No. 4 Duke in the Champions Classic, and a Jan. 10 matchup at the Breslin Center against Rutgers. The Spartans lost by seven points to the Blue Devils and needed overtime to edge out a four-point win over the Scarlet Knights.
The Hoosiers won the offensive rebounding battle over the Spartans, 25-3, and with four of MSU's remaining games to take place in their opponents' gyms, McQuaid suggested the team's rebounding effort, or lack thereof, could give their upcoming opponents an advantage in addition to the home-court advantage they already have.
“Everybody’s going to be crashing the glass, especially when they see that stat they’re going to take advantage of that,” McQuaid said.
MSU was able stave off an upset on a day where three ranked teams fell to unranked opponents. But when asked after the game if there was a silver lining in the team ultimately avoiding a complete let-down on the road, Izzo, like McQuaid, tried to put the win in perspective.
“Normally I’d feel that way if we would’ve turned it over 100 times or shot 20 percent. To go against what our program stands for, the rebounding and toughness, it’s hard for me to do that,” Izzo said.
Sophomore point guard Cassius Winston explained why his head coach uses this method of thinking in when judging his team’s performance on a game-to-game basis.
“He said the reason he was angry, or mad, or disappointed is because the effort wasn’t there,” Winston said. “Effort is something we can control no matter where we’re at, who we play or anything like that, so (us) missing shots, them hitting shots, that’s not really in our control, but in terms of us playing hard that’s in our control.”
Rare lackluster output from Bridges: Going into Saturday’s contest, sophomore wing Miles Bridges had eclipsed the 20-point plateau in five of the last six games. But against the Hoosiers, Bridges had a pedestrian seven points in 33 minutes.
Izzo voiced his dissatisfaction with his star player’s performance but not because Bridges’ lack of production on the offensive side of the floor.
“I was a little disappointed in Miles in the rebounding part and a lot of different parts. He gets eight rebounds, but no offensive rebounds,” Izzo said.
Izzo didn’t credit Bridges’ hollow presence on the offensive glass to an absence of effort, however.
“I need him to be more into it, but it wasn’t his lack of motivation. They just did a good job, and we did a poor job of putting him in a position to score,” Izzo said.
Izzo doesn’t discuss investigative report, voices support for survivors: Izzo once again declined to comment on questions regarding an ESPN investigative report, suggesting a culture of sexual assault and violence against women involving a few of his former players, among other former MSU athletes within the university’s athletic department.
This came four days after Izzo said there will be an appropriate time to speak on the allegations some time in the future, after MSU’s 76-68 win over Penn State.
Izzo continued to voice his support for survivors of sexual abuse from ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
“I just think it’s inappropriate for me to say anything right now. Our whole focus has been in the healing process for those survivors, the healing process for our university, for our community, and for me to coach our basketball team. So I don’t have a date, but we’ll be working on it and the date will come some time,” Izzo said.