Out Coached, Out Played & Out Hustled the Michigan State Spartans Blow Golden Opportunity for Big Ten Lead with 60 to 51 Loss to Nebraska
East Lansing, MI
The Michigan State Spartans had first place in the Big Ten gift wrapped for them today. Arch rival Michigan had lost earlier to Wisconsin in Ann Arbor 75-62.
The Spartans were hosting unranked Nebraska and the Spartans as a team, rated in the top ten, hadn’t lost a home game against an unranked team since February 1, 2009. That loss was to Penn State. Conversely the Huskers hadn’t defeated a top ten team on the road since 1997.
Streaks are made to be broken.
The Huskers were hungrier, they were better prepared and they were better coached. This loss rests on the Huskers winning it and frankly the Spartans not matching the intensity of their opponent. You can dissect this loss anyway you want, but to not credit the Huskers is disrespectful. They came in looking for a fight. Their coach had them ready and the Spartans acted like they could coast.
Husker head coach Tim Miles said, “I really believe in this group. As a coach this group has come together really nice. It was a great win. They really earned it. They wouldn’t let us in the lane.”
Izzo said, “Disappointing. I think we missed four layups that were dead layups and that all happened in the first two minutes. There are always tough losses in the season. This is the toughest. On the other side I am not upset with the loss because we got exactly what we deserved. We got what we deserved and the only guy that takes the blame for that is me. Today it was the Spartans that didn’t bring it. Nebraska they were junkyard dogs and reminded me of some of our older teams. We got what we deserved.”
Tom Izzo is an amazing coach, a future Hall of Famer, but with 3:27 left to go in the game and his team back to within two he called a bad timeout. It isn’t often this once in a lifetime coach has a major coaching mistake, but that was one in my opinion.
Even Coach Miles admitted about the timeout that, “Didn’t realize it. (Izzo took the timeout) He beat me to it or it would have been me.” If Nebraska had called the timeout the crowd would have just got more lathered up. Instead they popped another Geritol and sat down as it was their coach who called it.
The crowd had responded to the Spartan players begging them to get loud and it was a head scratcher that Izzo killed the momentum. It never got back even close to what it had been when the timeout was called. At the time of Izzo’s decision, it was the loudest it had been all year.
I asked Izzo about the timeout and he explained it as, “I had four of them (timeouts) left, I wanted to be sure we got what we wanted…and if we needed to foul. So that was the reason. I don’t regret it.” MSU had many chances to win and lose this game. This was just a glaring one from a coach that rarely makes a bad call.
It certainly is a bump in the road, but not a big deal. This one loss may decide if the Spartans win a Big Ten title outright, or share it, but it doesn’t derail their dream of winning it.
Izzo added emotionally, “Give them credit, they punched us in the mouth and we didn’t punch back. We didn’t bring it.”
Keith Appling returned today. Although not starting he did play 19 minutes. MSU super assistant Dane Fife and Coach Miles are close friends. Miles spoke tongue in cheek about his buddy saying after the game about Appling playing, “He’s a liar. He said he wasn’t playing.” Again Miles was joking.
In Fife’s defense Izzo didn’t know Appling was playing until minutes before the tip. I asked him and he said, “We decided after warm-ups we were going to try to play him some.”
Appling contribution was minimal scoring two points and adding three rebounds. He also had two turnovers.
The Spartans return to action Thursday at Purdue. That is a 7PM tip that you can see on ESPN.