Nicked Spartans eager to prove 1st loss was anomaly
After suffering its first loss of the season, Michigan State’s basketball team spent a couple of days in Dallas to recollect itself.
Following the loss to Iowa in the Big Ten opener, the Spartans headed south and watched former Spartan Draymond Green and his Golden State Warriors' teammates play the Dallas Mavericks before taking in the Cotton Bowl on Thursday.
By Friday, Michigan State was in Minneapolis preparing for Saturday’s matchup with Minnesota.
“I think we’ll learn from this and it will be nice to get up there early,” coach Tom Izzo said before the team headed out of town. “We’ll have all day New Year’s Day to really buckle down. We had great walk-throughs and film sessions and great practices in Dallas and I’m looking forward to getting back on the winning track.”
No. 1 Michigan State (13-1) had established the best start in school history before losing at Iowa on Dec. 29. It still won’t have Denzel Valentine for this game as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery.
The Gophers (6-7) have lost five of their last six games but the Spartans are expecting their best.
“Pretty much every team this year has given us their best shot and that’s what we prepare for every game,” senior Bryn Forbes said. “Coach Izzo does a great job preparing us for every game like it’s a championship game.”
Izzo said Minnesota will present some matchup problems.
Joey King, a 6-foot-9 senior, leads the Gophers in scoring at 13.2 points a game and shoots 43.8 percent from 3-point range and better than 90 percent from the free-throw line. Along with 6-6 freshman wing Jordan Murphy, the athleticism will challenge the Spartans defensively.
“They’ve got some skilled offensive players, so we have to be ready for anything,” Forbes said. “They’ve got some guys that can score, so we’ll have to be ready on the defensive end. They’ve got a couple of guys – 6-8, 6-9 – that we haven’t faced that much this year. A few teams have that size, but I think we’ll be prepared.”
Michigan State has started slowly in its last couple of games, something it overcame in the win over Oakland but couldn’t against Iowa.
Playing a full 40 minutes will be a big focus in this one.
“Once we get down we’re able to fight back and have that grit,” senior center Matt Costello said. “But we need to have that right away whoever we’re playing because every team is coming after us. We need to come out a little stronger and a little faster.”
That will mean a better performance than the Spartans had against Iowa.
Eron Harris scored 21 while Costello had a career-high 17. But Forbes was held to just three points and managed only five shots as the Hawkeyes took him out of the game.
Michigan State also turned the ball over 16 times, which led to 21 Iowa points.
“We’re not happy with the last game,” Forbes said. “Losing to Iowa, I think that makes us hungrier than ever right now.”
No. 1 Michigan State at Minnesota
Tip-off: 3 p.m. Saturday, Williams Arena, Minneapolis
TV/radio: ESPN2/WJR 760
Records: Michigan State 13-1, 0-1; Minnesota 6-7, 0-1
Notable: Michigan State plays its second straight road game to open Big Ten play and travels to Williams Arena for the first time since December 2012. While MSU lost its conference opener, Minnesota is coming off a road loss at Ohio State. … Michigan State had won two straight against Minnesota before dropping a 96-90 overtime decision last season at the Breslin Center. … Minnesota freshman Jordan Murphy ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.5 rpg), including a conference-best 3.2 offensive boards per game.