Izzo, Spartans Open B1G With Trip To Rutgers

Izzo, Spartans Open B1G With Trip To Rutgers

Basketball

Izzo, Spartans Open B1G With Trip To Rutgers

Michigan State (5-2) travels to Rutgers (5-1) for an early Big Ten season opener.  The Spartans must regroup after the tough overtime loss to Louisville and get off to a good start in conference play.

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#9 Michigan State (5-2) doesn’t have a choice – the Spartans must turn the page on the frustrating overtime loss to Louisville earlier this week and get focused.

Big Ten play starts Friday evening due to the 20-game conference schedule and the Spartans have a road test at Rutgers in comfy Piscataway, New Jersey.

No word yet on whether or not Paulie Gualtieri will be in the house for the game.  SpartansWire is efforting confirmation from the Rutgers Media Relations team and will report to our readers as soon as any information is available.

Michigan State doesn’t have any time to wallow in the missed opportunities left on the court at Louisville and needs to be dialed in from the opening tip of this Big Ten opener.

Tom Izzo’s team will be playing its 4th (of 5) game in a 12-day stretch – Izzo spoke of the challenge of this stretch while talking with the media on Wednesday but he’s taken on these types of challenging stretches before and, more often than not, they pay off down the road.

Within the last two games, Michigan State has fallen behind early due to turnovers.

Against Texas, the Spartans fell behind by 19 points but were, eventually, able to overcome the early sloppy play and earn an impressive victory to grab the Las Vegas Invitational Championship.

But the sloppiness in the early going at Louisville proved to be too much to overcome.

Michigan State turned the ball over 11 times in the first half against the Cardinals and while a 12-point deficit was, eventually, overcome, Louisville’s ability to convert those turnovers into points at the other end wound up being too costly for the Spartans in the 82-78 overtime loss.

Can Michigan State do two things in this Big Ten opener against Rutgers:

Limit turnovers?

and…

Get out to a strong start that doesn’t cause any “overcoming” of anything at all and rather allows the Spartans to control the game throughout?

The Spartans themselves need to turn the page on the Louisville loss – but Izzo sure has spent time examining how and where the team fell short.

“To me, it looks worse, and I’ve watched that film six times,” Izzo said after practice Wednesday. “Just disappointed that we didn’t do the things you need to do to win games on the road. … I was disappointed in our offensive execution, I was disappointed in our fastbreak. But the turnover thing, if you watch it, it’s — I don’t know. Guys gotta grow up and take care of the ball.”

It’s the turnover thing.

That’s the thing for this Michigan State team.

Need a stat to emphasize the point even more?

As the calendar is about to turn to December, Michigan State is 230th in the nation in averaging 14.6 turnovers per game.

In the team’s two losses, we can talk about missed free throws or missed layups or just missed opportunities – but the main issue in both losses was turnovers.

The 92-87 loss to then-#1 Kansas could have been won – but 18 turnovers were too much to overcome.

In the loss to Louisville, the Spartans committed 17 turnovers.

There you have it.

Cassius Winston is the floor general of the Spartans and while he’s playing like a potential All American in many respects, he committed 5 turnovers against Kansas and had 7 against Texas in that victory.

He knows what he needs to do.

“Some days, we come in and we’re locked in. Some days, it’s almost like we just get too sped up, rushing things, not taking our time, and I think that’s where a lot of turnovers come from,” said Winston on Wednesday.

The injury to Matt McQuaid had an impact on the Spartans’ overall ability to defend, score, and protect the ball against Louisville.

McQuaid’s injury is day-to-day and shouldn’t be a concern long term so there is reason to believe that his return to the lineup will help shore up more than a few issues for this team.

No official word yet on whether McQuaid will play against Rutgers – there are whispers that his ability to play will hinge on whether or not Furio is able to make it tonight.

Meanwhile, Rutgers has gotten off to a great start, particularly after a 57-54 road victory over Miami, Fl on Tuesday as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Props to the Scarlet Knights for carrying their weight in the challenge.

Steve Pikiell’s team has been playing great defense during its 5-1 start in allowing only 56.5 points a game and holding opponents to just 36.9 percent shooting – and a 31.6 percent from 3-point range.

How about the way the Scarlet Knights are crashing the boards?

They’re out-rebounding opponents by six per game.

Rutgers is averaging 70.7 points a game, too.

From a personnel standpoint, Rutgers is led by Geo Baker, a 6’4″ guard who’s scoring 15.3 points a game.

6’7″ junior Eugene Omoruyi is averaging 15 points a game and 8.8 rebounds.  Omoruyi can also step beyond the arc and drain long range shots – he’s made 9 of 17 3-point attempts.

The size of the Scarlet Knights is something Izzo will need to prepare for too.

Look for Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman, Marcus Bingham, and, of course, Kenny Goins to be up to the task in providing muscle, beef, and skill down low on both sides of the floor.

Shaquille Doorson is a 7′ center and Issa Thiam is a 6’10” forward who can move around.

Let’s not forget, too, that Michigan State didn’t exactly dominate Rutgers in the two meetings last season.

The Spartans had to pull away late in a 62-52 win at Piscataway last season and held on for a 76-72 win at East Lansing.

So, Michigan State is going to be facing a Rutgers team that might not be your grandmother’s Rutgers basketball squad.

And the Spartans are, as we know, in the middle of this pretty rough stretch.

Can the Spartans handle the Scarlet Knights?

Yes.

Some of the pundits out there have wondered if Michigan State will be able to handle the sultry flirtatious overtures from Ro Aprile during timeouts since Ro’s season tickets have her strategically positioned just a few rows behind the visiting team’s bench.

In the immediate aftermath of a loss that was largely due to turnovers and some missed gimmes down low, it’d be a surprise to see Michigan State not protect the ball and not get out to a strong start.

One benefit from the loss to Louisville – Izzo has his team’s attention.

The Spartans might not treat the Rutgers in the way Tony Soprano ultimately treated Phil Leotardo – but Michigan State will take care of business and get the Big Ten portion of the season started off on the right foot.

MICHIGAN STATE – 80

RUTGERS – 69

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