Sunday, December 5, 2021

'It’s a question of our ticker,' energy lacks as men's hoops crumbles

January 29, 2021
<p>Aaron Henry drives down the court during the Spartans&#x27; win over Rutgers on Jan. 5, 2021, at the Breslin Center. Henry scored 20 points in the game and scored 27 in the Spartans&#x27; previous win over Nebraska.</p>

Aaron Henry drives down the court during the Spartans' win over Rutgers on Jan. 5, 2021, at the Breslin Center. Henry scored 20 points in the game and scored 27 in the Spartans' previous win over Nebraska.

Photo by Courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications | The State News

Head Coach Tom Izzo said that junior forward and captain Aaron Henry said it best in the huddle.

“There’s no excuse.”

No excuse for the team high 21 turnovers the Spartans committed against Rutgers. No, not even a 20-day break from game play following several positive COVID-19 cases could muster up an explanation for that. 

“I’m sure we have a little COVID hangover I understand that but that will not be an excuse for the way we played,” Izzo said following the Spartans 67-37 loss to Rutgers on Thursday night. “That would be a good excuse for losing a game but not the way we played.”

To put it simply, the Spartans looked flat. MSU started off both halves with a dreadfully discouraging scoring drought while the Scarlet Knights capitalized on the other end. 

Ironically Izzo said the team had one of their best shootarounds prior to their matchup in New Jersey and a full team practice, which had resumed Monday brought mounds of energy.

But that didn’t translate in the Rutgers Athletic Center on Thursday. 

There was no floor slapping or fast-break dunks that would illustrate to you the Spartans are present. Instead, there was season-low shooting paired with season-high turnovers that made it look as if the Spartans weren’t all there.

“It’s a question of our ticker,” Henry said, putting much of the blame on himself for MSU’s first program loss to Rutgers. “It’s not a question of getting shots up or understanding things, it’s attention to detail, it’s the intangible things, it’s a question of our heart. Are we going to rebound, defend, are we going to run? Are we going to follow our scouting report? It’s just how basketball works and we have to do those things and the rest will follow after that.”

Sophomore forward Malik Hall felt it too. A loss of energy in the team that forced the Spartans to play catch-up throughout the matchup.

“I sensed it a little bit too,” Hall said. “I think we just have to come out strong and it starts with that, not letting anybody come out and just kick us in the face like we started off. ... They came out 15-0 and I mean that can never happen at that point we’re playing catch up the whole game and it shouldn’t be like that.” 

After trailing at the start, MSU brought it to a one-possession game just before the half. It was an almost understandable first-half performance as MSU had to adjust to a game atmosphere again. 

But after halftime, when the Spartans committed almost as many turnovers as they scored points, the excuses weren't explainable.

The Spartans energy fell flat as no athlete surpassed seven points in the 40-minute stretch. The shots weren't falling, the defense wasn't pressuring and the beams that hold up Michigan State basketball seemed to be crumbling.

MSU will now enter a Jan. 31 matchup against No. 13 Ohio State in desperate need of a season-defining win. The Spartans sit at 2-5 in the conference, changing the narrative of their season from reigning conference champs to a team attempting to prove their deserving of an NCAA Tournament bid.

“It’s not going to get any easier on the road," Henry said. "The next two games are going to be just as good, and we got to be better. I’ll say it again it starts with me. I’m holding myself accountable for that. I’m sure we’ll find our way ... but tonight, it’s on me.”

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