Hoops notes: U-M's shooting, defense, spoil men's hoops' Big Ten Tourney
NEW YORK — Men's basketball won 13 straight games, its last loss coming to the Wolverines on Jan. 13. The players wanted redemption, but came up short in Madison Square Garden, the “mecca of basketball.”
“Our mood is, we’re really mad,” sophomore wing Miles Bridges said. “But like I said, we’re not going to let this affect us in the future.”
MSU had a 29-26 lead going into halftime, but only shot 35.5 percent from the floor while U-M shot 31 percent from the floor. In the second half, the advantage leaned toward U-M, heavily. The Wolverines shot 66.7 percent compared to Spartans' 40.6 percent, which resulted in U-M outscoring MSU, 49-35.
“There was a lot of points that (were) just unguarded,” freshman forward Xavier Tillman said. “I think if we did a better job of not having any tic-tac fouls, we would of been good.”
Offensively, Bridges said the team was stagnant and lacked energy coming out of the first half, and once U-M got going, “they were tough to stop.”
“It was just one pass, shot, one pass, shot the whole game,” said Bridges, who scored a team-high 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting.
Like Friday against Wisconsin, sophomore point guard Cassius Winston said MSU didn’t hit a lot of open shots when needed. The Detroit native went 9-of-25 from the floor and scored 28 points in the Big Ten Tournament.
“Even if we didn’t run our offense as clean as we want, we got a lot of looks that we wanted and a lot of shots that we usually make,” Winston said. “We let that affect our defense a little bit in that second half.”
Winston said once U-M junior forward Moritz Wagner scored six straight points early in the second half, that opened up the Wolverines offense. About five minutes later, Wagner hit a 3-pointer and put the Wolverines up, 48-42.
Head coach Tom Izzo said when the Berlin product hit his lone three of the afternoon, it changed the entire aspect of the game and forced the Spartans to play from behind.
“We acted surprised that he was going to shoot it,” Izzo said after the game. “And then something else happened and then, of course, the missed layup, and I guess the good shot from long range. And then we were playing catch-up.”
Alongside Wagner was sophomore guard Zavier Simpson and junior guard Charles Matthews, who Izzo said played good defense against his team Saturday, something he said is not typical with a John Beilein team.
“I think they’re a little tougher, personally,” Izzo said. “I think Matthews is a great athlete that prides himself on guarding. And Simpson 100 percent prides himself on his defense. So you’ve got two pretty good defenders in places where — that I think is important.
“So I think his team is a better defensive team. Some of it is players, and I don’t know if some of it is coaching staff and what they did, but I think they are better defensively.”
Izzo said while U-M got off to the better start, his team was able to finish better. However, he said his staff and team didn’t do a good enough job on the scouting report.
“But it was the things that we had in the scouting report on how they drove us, which way they drove us, that we didn’t seem to pick up as well as I thought we would,” Izzo said. “And because of that — and still it was a game and us not playing our best. I don’t know what John felt about his team playing their best, but both of us didn’t play real well in the first half. They just had a better start. We had a better finish.”
But sophomore forward Nick Ward said the Wolverines didn’t change anything from the first half to the second half.
“It was just one of them days,” Ward said.
Players sour after loss to U-M: Saturday’s loss to U-M gives the Wolverines the season sweep of the Spartans.
“You know, even if we weren’t playing our best, we’d still be up at some points of the game making comebacks and stuff,” Winston said. “Like I said, it’s not the end of the world though. We’ll get a lot better though, still got a bigger picture ahead.”
Bridges said after Friday’s win against Wisconsin and awaiting their next opponent — either U-M or Nebraska — they “definitely” wanted another shot at the Wolverines.
“I’m 1-3 against them. And I don’t want to go out on a losing record,” Bridges said.
McQuaid hitting clutch shots: Although the Spartans fell Saturday, there was one player who was able to keep them within striking distance late in the game.
Junior guard Matt McQuaid hit two 3-pointers within the last four minutes of Saturday’s contest. He also hit a 3-pointer with 1:29 left in the second half Friday against Wisconsin, which ended up being the dagger to advance MSU to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
“I’m just trying to move to the open space,” said McQuaid, who played in 51 minutes in the Big Ten Tournament. “And Miles cut on one (against U-M) and he hit me for a great shot.”