A dominant Duke squad, and a solid night for Blue Devil freshman forward Vernon Carey couldn’t be stopped by a No. 11 Spartan team that continues to struggle over the court. The Spartans (5-3) fell 87-75 to the Blue Devils Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Breslin Center.
Coach Tom Izzo described the game in simple terms, "Outplayed, outcoached, outworked." Izzo said the loss came down to three factors: MSU turnovers, missed free throws and blocks at the rim.
“Yeah we’ve been through more hell than I think I’ve ever been through in my career here as far as some things that happen that set you back," Izzo said addressing the last month the team has had, in particular the death of senior point guard Cassius Winston's brother Zachary. "But at the same time that has no basis for why you don’t play hard and I just thought that we looked like the moment was too big.”
A plethora of Michigan State turnovers, which is nothing new for the Spartans, allowed Duke to pull ahead midway through the first half, grasping a lead that the Spartans just couldn't come back from.
With 8:36 left in the first half, the Spartans had more turnovers (7) than baskets (6.) And even though the Duke closed out the game with one more turnover than the Spartans, The Blue Devils ability to capitlize off of nearly every chance they got, proven by their 14 points off of turnovers, ultimately set them apart.
Michigan State once again just couldn’t find their groove in any lineup it put out. Without any flow, the Spartans lacked the toughness they needed to compete in Tuesday's matchup.
“I think they (Duke) were the tougher team tonight," Winston said. "They got after it defensively, cleaned up the glass, got a lot of second change opportunities. They played like they wanted it more.”
Defensively, Carey dominated the boards for the Blue Devils with 11 rebounds. Duke attacked the ball at every opporutnity they had, committing 10 steals and 11 blocks.
"I don't think I've had a team that has ever gotten 11 shots blocked in a game," Izzo said. "It wasn't like they were shots on the perimeter, or shots that are hook shots, they were at the rim, and you got to give them a lot of credit for that."
Winston started quiet, sinking just one bucket until picking up the pace late in the first. With four minutes left in the half, and Spartans trailing by 16, Winston progressed on a five-point run and led the Spartans to halftime trailing 45-29.
Back to back buckets for sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr. and junior forward Xavier Tillman to start off the second half, made it look like Michigan State might make a comeback from their 16 point deficit at the half. But Duke pulled away, making 62.5% from the paint and 66.7% from the behind the arc in the second.
Bingham Jr. and Tillman lead the Spartan team for the night. Bingham Jr. put out some of the best plays of the night for the Spartans while Tillman made a comeback to contribute 20 points and 8 rebounds after committing two early fouls that made him a risky player to put on the court.
As for the Blue Devils, Carey led the team with 26 points and put on a performance that nobody on the Spartan roster could put up a challenge against.
The Spartans continued to struggle from the three, making only 25%, and making it nearly impossible for them to compete with the hungry Duke team that scored 17 fastbreak points.
"They wanted it more than us," Bingham Jr. said. "They played tougher than us...Overall I just feel like we need to step it up, bounce back (and) get to work.”
The loss gave Duke a much-needed victory while it raised questions as to what this Spartan squad needs to change, before it is too late. Michigan State will return to their home court to host Rutgers Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.