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Lack of energy intensified MSU men's basketball's defensive slump in Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals

March 10, 2023
<p>Michigan State junior guard A.J Hoggard tries to block the shot of freshman guard Roddy Gayle Jr. on March 10, 2023.</p>

Michigan State junior guard A.J Hoggard tries to block the shot of freshman guard Roddy Gayle Jr. on March 10, 2023.

Photo by Henry Szymecko | The State News

The Spartans entered the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament eager to overcome No. 13 seed Ohio State for the third time this season, just five days after the two last met in East Lansing. 

However, as soon as the game tipped off, inconsistency set in and Michigan State waved goodbye to its shot at advancing in the tournament and clinching a championship title.

Michigan State lacked the vital energy throughout the entirety of the matchup on Friday afternoon at the United Center in Chicago.

It’s uncertain where MSU's shortage of energy stemmed from, but regardless of the external factors involved, it was apparent that for whatever reason, the Spartans were short of the necessary drive to fend off their opponent in their first game in the tournament. 

“Where fatigue is overrated is excitement and energy is underrated,” head men's basketball coach Tom Izzo said. “I try to tell a couple of my guards that your body language, your emotion, your energy makes a difference.”

The absence of vigor from the green and white intensified the defensive slump that MSU fell into almost immediately in the contest. MSU's brutal offensive performance was matched on the defensive side of the floor. 

Unfortunately for MSU, the Buckeyes had the opposite issue. OSU's offense was on display throughout the matchup, and their defense wasn't too shabby either.

Although the Spartans managed to out-rebound their opponent by two, their performance didn't show it.

OSU went 10-19 from behind the arc, and the Buckeyes' redshirt senior forward Justice Sueing was 4-7 from deep. The starter, a 25% free throw shooter, had hit a scant 21 total three-pointers during the regular season. 

In the absence of Sensabaugh, Sueing alongside freshman guard Roddy Gayle Jr. stepped up to give MSU trouble on defense. 

“Give Sueing credit,” Izzo said.  He acted like a fifth-year senior. 4 of 7, he's just not that kind of shooter. But give him credit on that and Gayle, he gets his chance more now and goes 3-3 with a couple of tough shots.”

Izzo has been vocal about the inability to play efficient defense for a majority of the season, and more so in the last few matchups leading up to tournament play.

The Spartan's 2022-23 season lineup had very few players who were able to consistently guard, and then match that energy on the offensive end. 

“I still think it was our energy on the defensive end,” Izzo said. “What did we shoot in the second half … not great. But it was our defensive effort that for those of you who want us to be an offensive team, there aren't many around.”

If the Spartans plan to make a run in the NCAA tournament, they’ll need to lock in and figure out what to do about the absence of defense and how to bring the energy needed to advance in the tournament, especially against consistent teams who have more two-way players available.  

Seeding for the NCAA Tournament will be announced Sunday night on CBS.

“Yeah, we're not happy with it. We came here to win a championship, and it felt like a letdown today,” graduate student forward Joey Hauser said. “Give them credit, they played really well. But we've got to turn around and focus our efforts on the NCAA Tournament because it's one-and-done for real then that time.”

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