Three up or down: the three Parts of the #4/#5 Michigan State basketballthat are trending up or down now.
- DOWN Turnovers The Spartans are an elite team. Deadly talented at all positions with great depth. Their biggest opponent that the face is themselves. That is why if they want to win the national title, and they can, they have to quit giving the ball away. Penn State is very talented as individuals, but they are not a good team. MSU gave them the ball 16 times. This has rocked Spartan basketball all year and I know they have worked on it. I asked Izzo about it in the midst of others trying to ask about anything but basketball. He told me, “That’s a good question. Not any surprise but really disappointed. You know, I just don’t know why we started the game… I think we had four in the first two minutes. You know, I think that’s the thing that bothers me the most about this team and the most about my staff and myself because you’ve got to be able to get that corrected if you’re a coach. So I’m really gonna do what I do when I struggle a little bit; I’m going to look in the mirror and figure out how I can do a better job because it’s not always on the players, you know, maybe there’s some things that I’m thinking they can do that they can’t do but I’m gonna do a better job of trying to curve it, you know. Although I think we’re at 12 and then we turned it over three times at the end, is that kind of the way it went? Or 13. So, you know, after a real rough start we had a decent next 30 minutes and then the last couple we were, we were awful. I appreciate you, and I’ll look forward to seeing you down in Indiana.”
- DOWN Ward & The Double Team The script on stopping Nick Ward is to double team him in the paint. I like Ward and he is young. Rather than understanding that NBA scouts see that as a point of praise, he sees it hurt his numbers and gets frustrated. He has to embrace that when he is double teamed he has very talented teammates who are open. He had six points against Penn State, but only six points. NBA guys wouldn’t complain if that was four points and eight assists. In fact, I asked a Scout about it. He told me this morning, “I would have no issues in my reports to talk about fewer points and more assists. He wouldn’t get doubled in the league until he earned it, but that unselfish play would matter in our organization.” Joshua Langford said of Ward and the offense that can come when he is double teamed, “Actually, it may seem weird, but the double-team actually, it helps our offense. When they double Nick, it leaves somebody open and if you do it the right way, it’s always been a benefit. We got it in the post because, early on our shots kind of weren’t falling, so our post got bigger and that’s where we wanted to get to, and that’s what we do.”
- UP The Spartans MSU (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) with every excuse to not be playing well, this mega-talented team is showing something even more special: grit! Izzo said, “Well guys we don’t have to worry about my emotions. We got to worry about my team’s emotions. I think my team has responded to the pressure of being No. 1, the noise, everything that’s gone on out there. I think they’ve responded pretty well, you know. We come back, and we’re 14 up in the second half. You know, we had a couple of miscues down the stretch. Number one, we threw the ball away and number two, they did a pretty good job and hit a couple of bombs. But you know what? This team’s resilient. This team’s done a hell of a job staying focused. I mean, we’re 21-3. I don’t know what the best start in Michigan State history is, but we got to be closing in on it if we’re not and I give them a lot of credit.”
EXTRA POINT: Matt McQuaid’s Defense
Tony Carr torched MSU last night for 28. But the game changed when Izzo switched Matt McQuaid on him defensively. McQuaid may have only had six points, but he was the MVP of the game and his defense was the reason MSU came roaring back and won.
I asked Izzo about the move to put McQuaid on Carr and how it changed the game. “It wasn’t that Josh (Langford) was doing a bad job on him, it’s just that McQuaid is a good defender. I have to say that in fairness to Josh, we did a good job of stepping up. When Nick got a little bit out of it and didn’t do his job, he wasn’t stepping up enough and that makes the guard look bad. We got those guys to step up a little better. Xavier (Tillman) did a pretty good job of it, and we started switching for it with Miles sometimes. It was a combination, but McQuaid definitely brought, not only with those two 3s, but good defense.”
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