Saturday, July 24, 2021

MSU men's hoops point guard rotation remains big question as Spartans fall in Columbus

January 31, 2021
<p>Sophomore forward Malik Hall (25) and junior guard Foster Loyer (3) prepare to be subbed into the game during the first half. The Buckeyes swept the Spartans 79-62 at OSU&#x27;s Schottenstein Center on Jan. 31, 2021.</p>

Sophomore forward Malik Hall (25) and junior guard Foster Loyer (3) prepare to be subbed into the game during the first half. The Buckeyes swept the Spartans 79-62 at OSU's Schottenstein Center on Jan. 31, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The point guard position, for Head Coach Tom Izzo, is the heart of his offense. 

It’s the Cassius Winston’s and Mateen Cleaves’ of MSU’s program.

The Spartans entered this season with a question mark at the one spot and three potential leaders battling for the title.

Despite being over two months into their season, those three; Rocket Watts, Foster Loyer and freshman A.J. Hoggard – are still being shuffled.

So where is Izzo’s head at? That answer is not so simple.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Izzo said of his point guard situation after the Spartans fell 79-62 to Ohio State. “I just know this a lot of people are rotating people and I’m going to keep rotating people until I find the right rotation.”

Hoggard, a freshman, started at the point for four consecutive games in Big Ten play. At the time Izzo said Watts, who had previously been working the spot, expressed interest in playing at shooting guard instead. 

However, in Sunday’s loss Watts saw himself right back where he started – point guard.

Following the Spartans 67-37 loss to Rutgers just days prior, Izzo said that having a freshman at the point might not be the best for a team that was struggling to make much happen offensively.

He acted on that statement.

Izzo started Watts on Sunday, which brought a level of control back to the Spartan offensive side, at least at the start.

MSU came out of the locker room with more energy and stayed competitive against the No. 13 Buckeyes, bringing the game within 10 points during the final three minutes. Even when the Spartans fell behind, such as during a 7-0 OSU run midway through the first, Watts broke it up with a runner up the paint.

But it wasn’t enough to secure the spot. Watts still struggled, shooting 2-for-9 from the field and dishing out just two assists. 

“It (Watts) wasn’t very good,” Izzo said. “He had an unbelievable day yesterday looked like some of my old point guards and then we get back in the game and he just reverted back a little bit.”

However, the Spartans did a lot of things they wanted to on offense, specifically in giving redshirt junior forward Joey Hauser more opportunities to get his shots up. Despite the shuffling of players, Hauser attributed his 5-for-11 shooting, the most shots he had put up since Dec. 6, to a change in his mindset over a change in the offensive strategy.

“I don’t think much changed. Guys have been continuing to tell me ‘you need to shoot more,’ coach has been telling me ‘you need to shoot more,’ so it really was on me to be more aggressive, to man the ball in the post,” Hauser said. “My teammates have had my back on that the whole time so it really was on me.”

But as a team, the shooting woes continued, MSU shot just 32% overall, a slight improvement compared to Rutgers, but still not enough to reign victorious. 

The Spartans gathered just 11 assists as a team, despite averaging 17.7 per game last season.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do I’ve got two days to think about it and I’m going to be thinking about it.”

The Spartans will put wheels up for Iowa City straight from Columbus for a matchup against the Hawkeyes on Tuesday. The game will tip-off at 6 p.m. CST.

Discussion

Share and discuss “MSU men's hoops point guard rotation remains big question as Spartans fall in Columbus” on social media.