East Lansing, MI
Michigan State should have had their easiest game of the B1G season tonight. “Should have,” being the key words in that first sentence. With one of their best players out and only seven scholarship players, lowly Nebraska was supposed to be the victim. Instead the Spartans continued the theme of the year: Playing down to the competition. MSU struggled until pulling away late for the 66-56 win. It was much closer and certainly in doubt late.
I could sugar coat it and I know that the email will come pouring in calling me every name in the book for not doing that, but it is what it is: UGLY. Sure it was a B1G win, but perspective is needed.
MSU has way too much talent to continue this. At some point they need to man up and dominate whistle to whistle in a game, not struggle and battle when an opponent is on the ropes.
I exclude an injured Gary Harris (Who I think should not be playing) from that analysis. That kid is TOUGH. They didn’t need him 100% or even playing to dismantle the Huskers on paper. ON PAPER, but sadly not in reality.
The aforementioned Gary Harris with his shoulder in a sling started 0-10, but shot #11 proved to be his lucky number. When he nailed it, it was a three late in the second half that put the dagger in the heart of the Huskers. He finished 1-11 shooting, but the youngster showed grit playing 36 minutes, and making six of his eight free throws.
When Branden Dawson went down hard on the Breslin Center with 14:01 left in the game, the arena faithful held their breath. After eventually getting up Dawson fell back to the floor again and was taken off the floor with his arms around two teammate’s shoulders. He then went to the locker room after a few moments on the bench and was visibly in pain.
Minutes later the Breslin erupted a al Willis Reed when he came running back out of the locker room. That may have been the highlight of the evening. The lowlight also involved Dawson who with the Spartans up eight with time running out made a monster breakaway dunk. Some will argue it being a lowlight, but when you have covered Izzo as long as I have you know how he feels. He admitted after the game that he, “Hates,” that.
Classy up and coming young Nebraska coach Tim Miles was asked about that break away and blew it off. He said, “That’s fine. Part of the game.” He admitted that at the post game handshake Izzo brought it up. He said of that exchange, “I told Tom not an issue, part of the game.”
Izzo said of the dunk by Dawson, “I hate that and yet he was right, they were chasing us all around. “
Back to the game as a whole, Miles team had no reason for shame with this performance, but he wasn’t looking for a moral victory. He said, “We are not into any consolation prizes. Those guys in the locker room aren’t into consolation prizes. We got some really young kids out there with their first B1G action. We made a lot of big plays, but unfortunately not enough to win.”
Izzo said of the contest, “They played harder than us, they coached harder than us and they deserved to win. I have no idea why we looked so lethargic. Practice was good, shoot around today was great. I am a little worried, perhaps because of our leadership that we are playing to our record or the team.”
Once again after wasting what could have been a red shirt season for the state of Michigan’s reigning Mr. Basketball, Matt Costello, Izzo failed to find minutes for him. Coach Mark Dantonio is fond of saying that when you chose NOT to redshirt a player you must be committed to playing them and playing them significant minutes. Izzo cites the emergence of Alex Gauna as to why Costello isn’t playing, but he only had two minutes. This is a critical thing to watch.
The Spartans were led in points by Derrick Nix who dropped 17. Adreian Payne had 14 and Dawson added 12. They were the only Spartans to get into double digits. Denzel Valentine led with eight boards and Harris had seven.
The Spartans record is now 14-3 and Izzo called it, “The weirdest 14-3 team I have been around. We haven’t had three or four guys play well together.”
The Spartans next lace them up on Wednesday at Penn State for a 7PM tilt. That game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.