They say things come in three. That saying must hold some truth because for the third straight game the Michigan State men’s basketball team played sloppy and uninspired basketball. It was a closer than should be 63-60 victory of the visiting Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns. Once again the story of the game for the Spartans was turnovers. For the second straight game the Spartans managed to struggle mightily with turnovers. The Spartans managed to turn the ball over 20 times with 14 of them coming in the second half alone. It is difficult to win any basketball game when turning the ball over that many times, luckily in the end the talent gap was too much for the Ragin Cajuns to overcome.
As I noted above turnovers were the main story of the game and head coach Tom Izzo felt the same. The one difference between today’s game and Friday’s sloppy win over Oakland was that Izzo was not in the mood to use excuses. After the victory of Oakland, Izzo placed much of the blame on himself for the rough schedule the Spartans had played. He felt the large amount of games with so little rest lead to fatigue which resulted in sloppy play and turnovers. He refused to use excuses today and lit into his team. “When they start turning it over from the very first minute of the game and you tell guys the same thing day after day, I’m going to start sitting guys and that is disappointing.”
That was probably some of the more kind words Izzo had for his team. As the press conference continued Izzo continued to express the disappointment with his team. “It’s hard for me to make excuses for my team. Even though I know we are tired. It’s still an incredibly ridiculous way of turning the ball over like we did. It is undisciplined, inexcusable, as a fan I’d be mad at the coach. As a coach I’m going to try to deal with it the way I have to deal with it. I have absolutely no sympathy.”
In honor of the holidays Izzo added, “Our guys are going to be great citizens, they are guys that the Christmas season must last all year because they are just not turning the ball over they are giving gifts away. A turnover is when a team makes a play and intercepts it. A gift is when you give somebody something; we are giving things to them right now. I rather throw it out of bounds so we can defend it.”
Russell Byrd had another game where he had trouble with turnovers. When asked if Byrd can lead while not performing Izzo responded, “It is hard for anybody to lead to be honest, if you are not playing good it is almost impossible. Byrd just has to play better, I don t care if he is making shots, he has to not turn the ball over, like it is. If that is asking too much, sorry.”
One steady force of late has been Derrick Nix. In regards to the turnovers the Senior captain had this to say, “You are not playing at the playground, so don’t treat the ball like you are playing in And 1, throwing crazy passes, you got to be safe and solid. That is something we got to be better at.”
If there was one bright spot for the game today it was the offensive production of Brandan Kearney. Kearney came off the bench to chip in ten points. Izzo had this to say about Kearney, “I think when Kearney, when he plays within himself, when he hits an open shot, when the ball is kicked out to him, is a very good defensive player and yet when he tries to do too much, four of those turnovers were his and that’s the only problem I had. We got a lot out of Kearney; he was one of the bright spots on the day.”
Once again the Spartans were led offensively by Keith Appling who finished the game with 19 points, five assist and six rebounds. Even though Keith had another strong game stats wise, it is clear he was starting to wear down towards the end of the game. The Spartans need Travis Trice to return as soon as possible to help take some of the load off Appling minutes wise and provide the backcourt with a steady hand to help decrease the amount of turnovers. The return of Trice would also open things up inside for Branden Dawson who had 12 points today and Derrick Nix who ended the day with 9 points and 5 rebounds.
The Spartans now head to Miami, Florida for the annual Big Ten/ ACC on Wednesday night. Clearly the team is in survival mode until Travis Trice and Gary Harris can return. We have seen Izzo do some of his best coaching jobs when working with a patch work roster so a big road victory over the Hurricanes is not out of the question. With a win on Wednesday Spartan fans can forget the past three games and start to look towards a positive season, right now, things are too sloppy to be positive. Maybe the poor playing is just a result of a Thanksgiving funk? I guess Spartan fans will find some answers on Wednesday night.