Sunday, December 5, 2021

After their lowest scoring performance since 2008, MSU struggles to find offensive identity

January 29, 2021
<p>Sophomore guard Rocket Watts (2) moves with the ball during the game against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 25, 2020, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans lead the Eagles 43-27 at the half.</p>

Sophomore guard Rocket Watts (2) moves with the ball during the game against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 25, 2020, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans lead the Eagles 43-27 at the half.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

It was as if the basketball was too big for the hoop. 

All it took was the starting six minutes of Michigan State men’s basketball’s 67-37 blowout loss to Rutgers to paint a dreadfully gray picture for the Spartan offense.

The Scarlet Knights opened with a 15-0 run right after the tip, leaving the Spartans scoreless for the first six minutes of the game. 

There was subtle hope as the Spartans entered the half trailing by just six until a turnover-riddled, 17-point second half squashed any beam of light on MSU’s side. 

MSU shot a sloppy 16-for-56 overall against the Scarlet Knights. No Spartan scored in double figures, which left junior forward Aaron Henry as the teams' leader with just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. 

To make matters worse, MSU saw multiple good looks from the field, yet couldn’t get any of their shots to drop.

Whenever Joshua Langford, Foster Loyer, or any shooters got free — they just didn't fall. MSU shot 28.6% from the field in the game.

“Some other guys that just missed some wide-open shots, especially at the start of the second half,” Head Coach Tom Izzo said after the game. “You hit a couple of those and it changes the game, but we didn’t and then the game got away from us and that’s probably my fault.”

Henry pointed the blame on himself, ending the night by committing six turnovers to the team's season-high 21. 

“Personally, I put this on me from a leadership standpoint, my role on the team," Henry said. "It had nothing to do with 20 days off, nothing to do with the time we missed. It’s a mental approach and honestly it starts with me. The intensity and the intangible things just weren’t there.”

With several positive COVID-19 cases plaguing the squad from full team practice since early January, shooting was ironically one of the few things Izzo’s healthy athletes could work on in their “downtime.” Sophomore forward Malik Hall was optimistic that some offensive rhythm will come back but admitted that the droughts on the offense side were slightly surprising. 

“A lot of people spent a lot of time working on their shot while we had that time off,” Hall said. “It’s a game pace so it’s a little bit different but I think it will start to steady out after a little bit.”

The Spartans shot poorly on the night, the 28.6% shooting percentage from the field number just edges out their 25.7% season-low at Minnesota in late December. 

A 20% performance from behind the arc didn’t help the early deficit either and marks their worst performance from the perimeter this season.

But these lows go beyond the COVID-19 stricken, absurd season this has been. The last time MSU was held to under 40 points was Jan. 12, 2008, against Iowa, this wasn't a season fluke.

It was a program record. 

And the scariest part about it for the Spartans? The answer to these struggles remains unclear.

Beginning full team practice Monday, Izzo and the team expressed positive strides coming from the practice gym.  

“Practices were fine,” Henry said. “We worked hard, we got after it, the return was nothing shy of what we expected but we have to carry over.” 

Do you want the news without having to hunt for it? Sign up for our morning s'newsletter. It's everything your friends are talking about and then some. And it's free!

Izzo said prior to the game sophomore guard Rocket Watts was playing so well that he expected Watts to have one of the best games of his career. Instead, Watts went 2-for-7 in his first start since late December. 

The Spartans held a strong presence on the offensive boards in the first half but snatched just three in the second. MSU's starters combined for just 22 points while the bench scored just 15.

The Spartans scored only 17 points in the second half.

Junior forward Thomas Kithier, who played 12 minutes, put up zero points on just two shot attempts.

Redshirt junior forward Joey Hauser shot 0-for-2 from the three and put up six points, despite averaging just over 11 per game.

“We’ve got to get some guys playing a little better,” Izzo said.

The Spartans will travel to take on Ohio State on Jan. 31 in Columbus. Tipoff for the game is set for 1 p.m.

Discussion

Share and discuss “After their lowest scoring performance since 2008, MSU struggles to find offensive identity” on social media.