Before Michigan state basketball began one of the worst matches of the Big Ten in Tom Izzo’s 26-year career, when the Spartans stood 6-0 and among the nation’s top 5 teams, the Hall of Fame coach hinted at something.
He was talking about figuring out how the minutes could work out between his inner spin. But it now appears to be an insight into what has happened since then.
“Maybe we will have to sacrifice a little early,” said Ezo, two days before the conference opens at Northwestern University.
The words he used after That 79-65 December 20 defeat to the Wildcats He condemned his players, staff and himself.
The ones he chose for Monday night After losing to No. 18 MSU 81-56 at No. 24 Minnesota They were more conservative, although plenty of evidence points to something greater than just a lot of missed shots.
“The good thing is that it was not defensive.” Ezo, who kept the same focus on the positives as he did after losing Christmas Day Friday, will build on that. “The bad thing is that it was offensive, and I’ll try to improve that.”
The Spartans’ quest for the 14th consecutive regular season title took another big blow in an eight-day period. MSU (6-3 overall) opened the Big Ten 0-3 match for only the second time in Izzo’s 26 seasons, including Friday’s loss of 85-76 at home to Wisconsin No. 7.
He knows he must keep reminding his team that these are only three out of 20 matches – even if he feels Spartans “hit rock bottom offensively” against the Gopher (9-1, 2-1).
I mean, I’m being paid to do that. Izzo said … It’s a tough job. ”Like I said, the conference will be good – Minnesota is another good team. But I am not worried about losing my players.
“As I talked about the energy level in Northwestern, the last two games hadn’t been a problem with the energy level.”
However, there were worrisome trends.
Ezo shook his starting line-up in Minnesota, dropping Foster Lower into the guard post and fetching Aaron Henry off the bench. This turned a Watts missile into a shooting guard, and the sophomore’s struggles continued. He went 1-to-9 for just 2 points against the Gophers as he shoots 5 of 29 to just 12 points in three Big Ten matches.
Ezzo said getting back to normal is what Watts wanted because he was not comfortable at this point.
“I’m just trying to help the missile get through the things it should do,” said Ezo. “He was more comfortable in (the goalkeeper) general. This is kind of an experiment. I mean, it’s different experiences that you have to do. It’s sad that you have to do it during the year, but we’ve known this problem from day one.”
As Watts went, so did the rest of MSU’s crimes.
The Spartans only went 6 out of 38 in the first half, missing 10 of 12 attempts from 3 points, ball training, and deep shots. They were 4 of 31 at one time. The recession permeated the half-court sets. They went 7 minutes 10 seconds in the period without a field goal and only two free throws, losing 12 minutes on one point.
Michigan State University trailed 36-16 in the first half, the lowest half to score since scoring just 14 points on December 30, 2014 in the first half against Maryland. The Spartans fell in that match by only three at halftime in that double loss 68-66 in overtime.
The bad shooting carried over, as the MSU finished off 18 of the 70’s from the field (25.7%). Spartans made only six turns that led to six points in Minnesota, but Ezo pointed to the long rebounds as boosters for the Gophers’ record.
Watts wasn’t alone.
Henry finished off his 3-10 shot to score 11 points with four rebounds and three assists, and Ezo said that removing the budding goalkeeper from the bench was “not lasting”. No other MSU player has scored in double figures.
Lauer scored 2 out of 6 against eight points, goalkeeper Joshua Langford was 2 out of 10 with five points, young striker Joy Hauser scored 1 out of 8 for six points, and young Gabby Brown missed all five of his shots. Go aimlessly.
“Our night wasn’t nearly as much as our shot,” said Loyer.
Izzo tinkering put two of his freshmen into bigger roles, too. Point keeper A.J. Hoggard scored nine points in shots of 4 of 9 in 15 minutes, while striker Maddy Sissoko went without goals in 12 minutes, but faced six rebounds.
Pointing out the offensive flaws, Ezzo said, “The good thing is that it wasn’t defensive. I’m going to build on that.” He felt his guards contained Minnesota player Marcus Carr, who finished 7 of 13 to score 19 points with five assists and four rebounds.
Gophers also used Liam Robbins’ height and offensive courage to get 12 of his 18 points in the opener. His seven-foot-paint strength allowed him to get five of nine rebounds before the first half and helped Minnesota score a 52-36 lead over the boards in the match.
“Anyone who knows Michigan knows they are a team that loves to smash attacking glass on the move,” said Robins, of Drake Transport. “So we knew it was important to finish the possession so that we could move and start our attack.”
The Spartans had no second chance points in a six-rebounds attacking in the first half. Gophers had a 6–0 advantage over Fastbreak to go with a 14-2 advantage in scoring goals in the first 20 minutes.
“I have no problem with our defense,” Ezzo said. “It was an insult to us.”
However, Robbins hit a triple pointer over Kithier’s late shutdown to start the game and then dropped to Hauser afterwards for an easy bucket. A stepping back 3 Carr pointer over Watts to open in a 9-0 round that MSU has yet to recover from.
Watts closed around a screen on Minnesota goalkeeper Jamal Mashburn Jr.and missed a 3-point shot by 15.8%, giving him three free throws in another 7-0 round. Henry defeated Gabe Kalcher – a 19% shot with 3 points – and defeated Dribbling. The auxiliary defense from Brown and Hauser arrived late, as Henry made a throwaway foul and Kalshur completed a three-point play that put Minnesota ahead, 29–11. Henry Carr passed Keither by substitution at the end of the half, and Gopher’s star exhausted a step back 3 pointers to place his team 20.
Now comes after just a few days of soul-searching, more experiments with formation groups, the potential mating of play rotations and grueling practices without lessons. The Spartans travel to Nebraska on Saturday in an attempt to snatch a losing streak after winning all of their matches without congress. The Cornhuskers (4-5, 0-2) plays Wednesday night in Ohio. Izzo never started playing 0-4 in Big Ten.
Knows which questions need answering. He also knows that it’s up to him to figure out the mystery.
“Are we strong enough? No. Are we enough leaders? No. But these are the things that were the same problems when we were 6-0 that I talked about and we need to improve them,” Ezo said. “We’ll keep working on that. We’ll be better in the next game, I promise.”