Sometimes teams just have an off-night, and that seems to be precisely what happened to the Michigan State men’s basketball team during its 79-76 season opener loss against James Madison. The Spartans shot a combined 62.2% from the free throw and just 5.0% from the three.
“I didn’t think it would go like that," head coach Tom Izzo said after the game. "But then again, I don’t think we can shoot like we did and expect our defense to carry us in any way, and it didn’t, but it didn’t because it is depressing to keep missing free throw after free throw."
The Spartans and their fans were stunned on Monday night after watching the Dukes outplay the Spartans for the better part of the game.
Before the start of the season, MSU and its current line-up were one of the fan favorites to go all the way this year, but after a rough first showing there will be some “adjustments” moving forward.
Head coach Tom Izzo simply described what the next few days of practice will look like as “ugly” as the team attempts to dig deep and get rid of some of the repeated issues and shooting struggles the team faced on Monday.
“Ugly. I think it is going to be ugly," Izzo said. "Too much load management, and worried about sports science and this and that, that’s out the door and we’re just gonna practice."
There were many kinks in the playing style of the Spartans including their pace at different times of the game being too fast, being sloppy with the ball, and as Izzo mentioned, “a lack of leadership”, but Izzo also said that many of those issues get resolved if guys just make shots.
“I think they deserve a lot of credit, but again when you start missing shots like that it does become contagious,” Izzo said. “Once in a while, you are going to shoot the ball poorly, but I don’t think I have ever seen us shoot the ball that poorly. Definitely not from the line and I don’t think ever, and I don’t know if I ever have had a team that went one for twenty from the three.”
Despite the poor shooting night, there were still some standout performances for the Spartans one specifically being from graduate student guard Tyson Walker who finished the night with 35 points, five rebounds, six steals, and three assists.
However, after the game, Izzo nor Walker himself were specifically impressed with his performance because of one word. Efficiency.
Walker, although scoring 35 points, shot 0-5 from the three-point line and only made 11 of his 17 free throws.
“I didn’t do enough, missed too many free throws, and took too many bad shots,” Walker said. “Got to be better, first five has got to be better. You can’t let the bench come in and get a bunch of spark—got to do it from the beginning.”
Another mentionable performance, one that made the high graces of Izzo, was from explosive freshman guard Coen Carr. Carr finished with 14 points on 5-6 shooting from the field, along with six rebounds. Carr also had two plays that almost blew the roof off of the Breslin, one being a block that he sent into the stand and the other being an impressive put-back dunk.
“He (Coen Carr) played hard," Izzo said. "He played with some passion, he played with some enthusiasm and he played like a freshman should.".
The Spartans will play again Thursday at 7 p.m. against Southern Indiana at home, but by then there could be noticeable changes for the Spartans all around.
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