Izzo has no idea how long Nairn will be out with injury
Madison, Wis. — Michigan State has Denzel Valentine at 100 percent and back in the starting lineup after missing four games, but now it must deal with the loss of its point guard.
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. did not play in Sunday’s 77-76 loss at Wisconsin and could be out for an extended period of time as he suffers from plantar fasciitis in his right foot, an injury that has been bothering him since the summer.
“The last three weeks … it’s been tough on him,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I have no idea the time, I mean I have no idea. I’m talking a week, I’m talking a month, I’m talking the season. I have no idea, to be honest with you.
“I had the same thing about a year ago and fortunately for me a shot took care of it. Didn’t take care of his. How he reacts the second time, I don’t know. He’ll definitely be out a little bit, but a tough deal.”
Nairn was averaging nearly 25 minutes a game, but in the past few weeks his defense –— normally his calling card — had started to falter, a direct result of the soreness in his foot.
With Nairn out, freshman Matt McQuaid started for the first time in his career while Valentine played his share at point guard.
“It’s got to be tough because we know he could have helped us win,” Valentine said, “especially with things like defending, leadership and energy on the court. He’s a big part of our team, but we need to find a way to win games.”
Nairn wasn’t the only change to the starting lineup. Izzo gave freshman Deyonta Davis his first career start in place of Gavin Schilling and Eron Harris remained in the starting lineup, replacing Bryn Forbes.
Davis got into early foul trouble but was effective in the second half, defending Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes while finishing with seven points and three rebounds. Harris had his moments early, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the first half, while Forbes got going late with a couple of 3-pointers to score 12.
“I keep saying I’ve got to get my rotation down and it just might not happen for a while,” Izzo said.
We got after it on the floor four or five times and that hasn’t happened in a couple weeks. That was something we worked on every day this week, so we took a step in the right direction.”
Lots of whistles
What made the rotation especially difficult on Sunday wasn’t just the loss of Nairn, but the fact Michigan State committed 28 fouls that led to Wisconsin going 29-for-36 from the free-throw line.
Michigan State was 12-for-16 on free throws, but Izzo stopped short of blaming the officials for how the game was called.
“I don’t know, it was a well-officiated game,” Izzo said. “You saw what you saw. I saw what I saw and I’ll let the film see what it sees. We had our chances to win the game and we didn’t.
“I’m not going to sit up here and complain about the fouls. It was hard to play. But that had nothing to do with missing the five or six layups we missed.”
Michigan State allowed 41 first-half points on Sunday, the fourth time it has allowed 40 or more in the first half this season.
Kansas (41), Oakland (50) and Iowa (46) have also scored that many in the first half and Michigan State is now 2-2 in those games.
“Our practices were great and everybody was talking and playing better defense,” senior Matt Costello said. “But we just came out and got in foul trouble again, started hacking away and they had about 20 more free throws than us. We’ve done that multiple times this season and it gets us in a hole. It’s tough to guard a free throw.”
… Michigan State has now lost four of its last five against Wisconsin, including three straight at the Kohl Center.