Value City Arena
When Michigan State started the week they were #4 in the nation. They had eyes on a Big Ten title, a NCAA number one seed and a national championship. A funny thing happened. They got routed by Indiana and out coached and played here at Ohio State.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo said, “It was the second game in a row we didn’t guard anybody. It was Aaron Craft. He beat us every way you can beat us.” Izzo was 100% right.
Craft is the Big Ten’s best defender and tonight looked like the best scorer. MSU played their worst defense in the second half since their November 26, 2012 loss to Miami in Miami.
Craft continuously punished the Spartans going to his right and driving. He had a career high 21 in his dismantling of a Spartan team that has lost its identity.
Craft said of his performance, “We saw some things we could take advantage of. Michigan State is a big pressure team, and you can’t change your identity this late in the year.” Craft admitted the Buckeyes need to challenge the Spartans. They did.
Because Craft’s pedigree isn’t that of a scorer, a humble Izzo admitted after the game, “I think I made poor adjustments. I am disappointed we don’t show the grit we showed in the last two games. It was six guys, five players and me that did a poor job.”
In fairness to Izzo, his team’s inability to make the necessary adjustment each time Craft went to the right does lay on his shoulders. It is also important to keep it real. For the second straight game and the third big one captain Keith Appling completely disappeared. Appling had three points and three turnovers in 34 minutes.
Izzo admitted as much. He said, “No secret Keith is working hard, but struggling.” Why is that? “I would be the first to tell you that I don’t know. He does look like a different player than the one two weeks ago.”
The most baffling coaching decision to me was when the Spartans were up 38-34 with 15:25 left in the game, the Buckeyes went on a 17-3 scoring run that ended with them up 51-41 with 9:41 on the clock. I Tweeted that Izzo needed a time out during that run and none came. That was baffling to me.
Despite an occasional smile it was no secret Izzo knew his team missed a big opportunity. He has warned all year about one loss costing you two or more. This is what he has been talking about. The Spartans didn’t look like themselves and it was clear there was an Indiana hangover. That one loss turned into two tonight.
Izzo confessed that, “I would have rather played well and lost.” He went on to elaborate, “I haven’t seen the same grit since the Michigan game.” Referring to the beat down the Spartans put on arch rival UM 75-52 at the Breslin Center on February 12.
Izzo confessed that after that game his team got, “Fat and sassy,” and maybe started to take too much stock in their press clippings. He is right, since that win they haven’t been the same.
When asked if a week off for his team to prepare for Michigan was a good thing, he bristled at the thought. “No. What’s wrong with Indiana? They were number one in country. If you are a 10-18 team you do that to make your season, not when you are a good program.” Izzo has built a good program and I couldn’t agree more.
The Big Ten has great coaches and teams. He was outcoached and his team outplayed. On the road at OSU that is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Spartans are not mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten race, but they are in reality.
Now they are playing for Big Ten tournament seeding and more importantly NCAA seeding. That is what Izzo lives for and what people need to keep in mind.
The Spartans tip it off one week from tonight at Crisler Arena against UM at 4 P.M. That game can be seen on CBS.
The Spartans record on the season stands at 22-6 (11-4) and they are in danger of falling out of the top tem when the new rankings come out Monday.