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<< Sports >>

NCAA College Basketball

Spartans Silenced

by Dan Joseph
djoseph@americajr.com

Michigan State had the opportunity of a lifetime in hosting a number one team on their home court. With this being the only regular season match-up between the two Big Ten powerhouses, expectations were high. Unfortunately, it was a game of weak perimeter defense, a rain of three pointers, and a game where the Illini showed the nation why they are number one by beating the Spartans 81-68.

Michigan State came out strong in the first half holding strong with the Illini. With the game Tied at 12, the Illini pulled ahead and never looked back. Fueled by a 13-24 rain of three pointers, Illinois all but drowned Michigan State’s chance of winning the Big Ten title.

At halftime, Illinois led 41-33. Spartans head coach Izzo wanted to get the ball more inside to Paul Davis to try and create some plays. The Illinois guards were too quick on the perimeter, and the shots weren’t falling for the Spartans. Illinois pulled away farther and farther, and led by as many as 15 points. Michigan State’s dormant shooting and Paul Davis’ weak inside game didn’t help the Spartans’ cause. One last late game effort brought the game within six points, but it wouldn’t be enough. Illinois finished strong, and the Spartans were history.

Michigan State rushed shots, failed to grab second chance points, and were weak on the transition. They were lax on defense and seemed off balance most of the second half. Questions again swirl around the lack of toughness in this Michigan State team.

Illinois forced turnovers and transitioned well. They shot lights out and were virtually unstoppable behind the arch. A true number one proving why they could very well end up undefeated, and why they will contend for a final four position in the big dance this March.

Michigan State has not looked strong since the beginning of the season. They’ve struggled to find shots and struggled to make free throws. They wear down quickly in games and often seem to play down to their opponents. They’ve played only two ranked teams with both resulting in a loss. Often they find themselves in the transition and cannot complete the task. They lack mental toughness needed to play in the Big Ten under Tom Izzo.

Looking ahead in the Big Ten is a fairly tough schedule. Minnesota is playing well, Purdue is improving, and they face a ranked Wisconsin. Some would even argue that traveling to Indiana should be a concern for the Spartans.

Players need to start stepping up and stepping up quickly. Paul Davis has proven he cannot compete on a consistent level from night to night, and Maurice Ager is proving to be a sub par version of the player we thought he was. Chris Hill and sixth man Kelvin Torbert have showed promise, but it isn’t enough to win tough games.

We haven’t even mentioned the Big Ten tournament. Right now isn’t the time for that. There is too much work to be done with this Michigan State basketball team. They first have to continue to work no their mental toughness. After that the winning will come easier and they can think about contending for a win in the Big Ten tournament.

For now we have to look back on this much anticipated match-up and wonder what went wrong. Could it be that Illinois is that much better than Michigan State? If that’s true, what does it say about a Wisconsin team that only lost by 10 points to the Illini?

Tom Izzo won’t stand by and watch his team go into meltdown. He’ll find ways to motivate his team and grow from this experience. This will come even as they remember watching Illinois ride off into the sunset yelling “see you in March.”

Click here to send an email to Dan Joseph.

 

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