Turnovers, Sluggish First Half Too Much For Spartans To Overcome

Turnovers, Sluggish First Half Too Much For Spartans To Overcome

Basketball

Turnovers, Sluggish First Half Too Much For Spartans To Overcome

#10 Michigan State came up short against #1 Kansas, losing 92-87 in the Champions Classic. Turnovers and missed free throws dug a hole for the Spartans. But the loss gives Spartans many reasons to be encouraged about the prospects of a big season ahead.

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It wasn’t that Michigan State’s comeback “fell short” Tuesday night in the Spartans’ 92-87 loss to #1 Kansas in the Champions Classic.

The game was lost in the first half when Michigan State turned the ball over far too often, was a step slower than the Jayhawks, and a slew of free throws were missed.

Michigan State tipped off the ’18-’19 season with a tough loss to a #1 ranked team it could have beaten and that’s something this team will certainly benefit from all season – perhaps mostly if the two teams collide in March.

But after too many shortfalls against college basketball’s Blue Bloods like Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas, the Spartans aren’t talking about any “moral victory”

“We should have won the game, point blank,” Spartan junior – and leading scorer with 18 points – Joshua Langford said. “If we want to win the national championship, we want to win the Big Ten outright, we’ve just got to play better, period. It can’t be too many more, ‘Could have did this,’ or, ‘Look at the bright side.’ It’s time for us to make that step as team, as well as me as a leader.”

At one point late in the first half, the Spartans fell behind by 17 points due to a combination of the Jayhawks’ undoubtedly warranted #1 status and general sloppiness on their own part.

“I’m disappointed in the first half,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I think that was as poorly as we could play, and yet, I said if we could get it to 10 we’d have a chance in the second half. We just didn’t play good enough to beat a good team, and they’re a good team.”

Kansas has a roster filled with shiny 5-star high schoolers who are now explosive freshmen, some transfers, and a gigantic and very forceful man in the middle and all of these monsters scored and contributed and showed why KU is #1 in the nation.

Jayhawk freshman sensation Quentin Grimes scored 21 points to lead KU.

Dedric Lawson – one of the Lawson brothers who transferred from Memphis – scored 20 points.

The gigantic and very forceful Jayhawk in the middle was 7′ center Udoka Azubuike and he scored 17 points.

And KU’s Devin Dotson scored 16 points.

That’s a lot of scoring from a lot of players.

But, even with all of that firepower, it was still Michigan State’s inability to take care of the ball in the first half and its inability to make free throws.

There were very encouraging signs thanks to Michigan State’s own collection of scorers – but this night showed why it’s so essential to limit turnovers and sink free throws.

The Spartans finished the game with 18 turnovers – compared to the young Jayhawks’ 11 turnovers.

Michigan State shot 23 for 35 (65.7%) from the free throw line and that percentage doesn’t look all that bad.

However, if the Spartans want to win the Big Ten, get to the Final Four, and win the whole thing, 65.7% from the line (particularly when combined with 18 turnovers) is going to lead to yet another early exit in the Tournament and winning the Big Ten is unlikely.

Michigan State was beaten on the boards, too.

The Jayhawks out rebounded the Spartans 42-40 with KU holding a 13-7 edge on the offensive side, the side where Izzo has stomped his feet for decades now about the need to win that battle.

Give Kansas all the credit in the world – that team is a #1 team.

And while Michigan State wasn’t able to get it done, there sure are some encouraging signs.

The Spartans were 12 for 23 – good for 52% – from 3-point range, finding the groove that was missing that last time this team played a non-exhibition game.

Joshua Langford played like the Langford that Izzo says is the key to this team’s success.

Despite turning the ball over 5 times, Cassius Winston recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists.

Winston was 2 for 4 from 3-point range and it’d be nice to see him set up for more heaves.

Matt McQuaid played big boy basketball and finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds – this is a big deal as McQuaid has the potential to a huge part of the Spartans ability to make this a truly special season.

Nick Ward fought, ran, hustled, and worked all night long – but he was a step slow and not totally up to the battles against KU’s low post monsters.  He ended the night with 9 points and 5 rebounds – nice numbers and worth reminding ourselves that those numbers came against the #1 team in the nation.  Although, that’s also the point – Ward has to come through in a bigger way in these games.

Ward did play 25 minutes and Izzo is going to need Ward to be able to give that many minutes all season long, especially when the Big Ten’s winter slog arrives.

And how about Kenny Goins?

His performance might be the brightest spot of the game.

He was all over the floor.

His athletic block that led to a Joshua Langford 3-pointer in transition at the beginning of the second half brought Michigan State to within 11 and seemed to be the spark that kept the Spartans going for the remainder of the ball game.

Goins gave Izzo 33 minutes, delivered another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, was 4 for 6 from the line, and played with the intensity this team needs.

Still, the comeback fell short.

The game counts as a loss no matter how great it was to see the Spartans fight and claw and have a shot late.

It wasn’t a thumping that the Spartans have suffered at the hands of the Blue Bloods so many times in these non-conference clashes.

But it’s a loss that this team has to even out with a win over someone down the road this season in a game that might be tough but just has to be won (I might be looking directly at the game on February 24th, for instance).

All in all, it’s a good start for Michigan State and the Spartans did, despite the whining here about the inability to get it done, give notice to the college basketball world that this year’s Spartans will be present and accounted for all season long.

On November 7th, the Spartans are 0-1 after a 92-87 battle to Kansas.

Today, the question is simple: when January 1st and March 1st arrive, will these Spartans have found the ways to eliminate the first half turnovers, make the necessary free throws, crash the boards so that those battles are won all in order to turn these types of games into victories?

Unlike so many previous routs suffered against the programs that Izzo is so eager to be compared to, the feeling here is that this team is as close as any other over the last ten years to being ready to win these games right now.

Now, the Spartans just need to get back to work and gear up for what is going to be one hell of a fun, exciting, and intense season.

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