Friday, May 20, 2022

A winter break Spartan sports report: Here's what you missed over Christmas break with MSU Athletics

January 15, 2021
A face off between MSU and U of M on January 9, 2021 at the Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 3-2.
A face off between MSU and U of M on January 9, 2021 at the Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 3-2. —
Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

With many sports teams' seasons condensed due to COVID-19, schedules for student-athletes have been strenuous this season, and that included winter break for many MSU athletes. 

So, from us to you, here’s a review of what happened for Spartan sports between Dec. 14, 2020 and Jan. 11, 2021.

Men’s basketball

As the Fall semester ended, so did the non-conference schedule for MSU men’s basketball. The Spartans welcomed the beginning of their Big Ten slate on Dec. 20 with a road game at Northwestern

Despite entering the game undefeated, the matchup against the Wildcats exposed immense shooting problems for the Spartans. The game would result in the Spartans first loss of the season as they fell 79-65 to the Wildcats. 

Next on the agenda, the Spartans returned home for their much-anticipated match against Wisconsin on none other than Christmas Day. 

The families of the players were welcomed to the Breslin for the first time all season this game and MSU was fighting to redeem themselves after their letdown at Northwestern. 

The match was a back and forth affair as the teams entered halftime tied at 42. But in the second half, the then-No. 9 Badgers found a scoring rhythm that would tuck the win under the Badgers arms, behind a strong performance from senior guard D'Mitrik Trice and all of a sudden, the Spartans had dropped their second consecutive Big Ten game on Christmas Day, falling 85-76.

At 0-2 in the conference for the first time in a decade, the Spartans would travel to Minnesota on Dec. 28 with hopes of getting their season back on track.

Or maybe not so fast.

MSU scored points in the first half, their lowest-scoring first-half performance since Dec. 30, 2014. The shooting woes were significant for the Spartans in this one as they ended the night shooting 26% overall. 

The trouble by the basket would cause MSU to fall 81-56 to the Golden Gophers and put them winless in Big Ten play. 

2021 luckily brought the green and white its good graces, killing their losing streak on Jan. 2 in an 84-77 win against Nebraska.

The energy carried into Jan. 5, where the Spartans went on to flatten the Rutgers Scarlet Knights with a 23-point lead, resulting in a 68-45 win.

At this point, we had started to see some solidity in the starting lineup, but the question at hand was, could the five carry another victory or would the Spartans fall back down the rabbit hole?

It took six seconds. Six seconds and it was over. The No. 23 Spartans got knocked out of the AP Polls and out of a 17-point lead as Purdue’s Trevion Williams landed a buzzer-beating jumper. The Spartans fell to shame in a 55-54 loss, heads hung low in utter astonishment.

The Spartans will have to wait until Jan. 23 in their matchup against No. 14 Illinois to find redemption. Their games against both No. 5 Iowa and Indiana were both postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the MSU program.

It was announced to the media on Jan. 13 by head coach Tom Izzo that freshman Mady Sissoko and sophomore Steven Izzo, who are roommates, had come down with positive cases. A third member of the team was said to also test positive later that night, though no name has been publicly released.

Women’s basketball

It only got harder as the weather got colder, but the Michigan State women’s basketball team didn’t let their guard down.

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It doesn’t matter how early their opponents got hot, MSU found a way to put it together in the final seconds.

On Dec. 18, the ladies swept Central Michigan in a 79-70 win and on Dec. 20, only two days later, they did the same to Northern Illinois in an 82-70 win.

The ladies were a well-oiled machine, the ball passed and shot easily between hands. On Dec. 22 they steamrolled over Oakland in a second half blowout, winning 94-56.

They kept that energy high as they went into 2021, starting the New Year with a foot on Purdue after a 71-64 win pushed them to an 8-0 undefeated record for the first time since 2012-13.

However, win fatigue caught up, even with their families on the premises. The ladies, who were ranked No. 23 at the time in AP Polls, felt short to No. 12 Maryland in a 93-87 loss on Jan. 7.

That energy remained as they went into their second straight game ranked No. 23. They were suffering, unable to find their bearings as they again fell short, this time to Nebraska in a 68-64 loss.

The lady Spartans, now 8-2 overall, have finally found some time off. The game against Illinois was postponed late Wednesday night due to COVID-19 issues within the two MSU programs. This is not the first time this incident has happened — Ohio State had called for the same pause to the New Year’s Eve matchup against MSU.

Hockey

It took a bit longer than anticipated, but on Dec. 18 the Big Ten released the second half of the schedule for the Michigan State hockey team.

MSU Hockey will play a total of 28 regular season games now, 20 of them coming after the New Year and the last five on home turf. Found on their schedule are also reschedules of postponed series like Wisconsin vs. MSU, which is now over the weekends of Jan. 29 and March 5.

The season is set to end with the Big Ten Tournament the weekend of March 18.

Winter break does not give time for these student-athletes to slack. The hockey team took on Notre Dame first, unable to capitalize on their strong goaltender play and ending in a 1-1 overtime tie the first night.

Next on the agenda was Penn State, where the Spartans came back 5-1 after getting trampled 1-0 the first night.

They took on in-state rival Michigan on Jan. 8, who had been sitting out of competition since Dec. 9, and were blown out of the water in a 9-0 loss the first night.

There was no mercy given the second night. The two teams went head-to-head again, only for MSU to bounce back and secure a 3-2 win.

Spring schedules announced 

After long extended offseasons, the MSU volleyball and gymnastics teams were finally assigned competition schedules to kickstart in late January.

For volleyball, there will be a 22-game conference-only slate that features a two-game series each weekend against the same opponent.

The ladies will open their campaign on the road against Minnesota the weekend of Jan. 23 and go on to play Maryland, Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa also away. They will host Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Penn State and Rutgers in East Lansing.

Found on their schedule are also two “non-plays,” or Nebraska and Indiana.

Postseason play will begin following the conclusion of the spring season on April 3. Selections and seedings will not be decided for the NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament until April — only 48 of the normal 64 teams will participate, with 32 automatic qualifiers and 16 at-large selections.

For gymnastics, there will be a conference-only slate featuring eight matchups. Only five of their opponents will count toward official Big Ten conference standings, while two will not.

The ladies will open their campaign on the road against Maryland the weekend of Jan. 22 and go on to play Ohio State, twice, and Illinois also away. They will host Nebraska, Minnesota and Michigan in East Lansing.

Found on their schedule are also two multi-group meets: The Big Five Meet and The Big Ten Championships. Locations for said events are currently undecided.

All information and decisions for listed sports are subject to change, as nothing can be set in stone with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

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