East Lansing — After opening with two losses on the road, Michigan State plays its first game at Breslin Center tonight, and the plan is clear.
At least, it’s clear to coach Tom Izzo.
“This is about Michigan State,” Izzo said Thursday. “This is about what Michigan State hasn’t done so far this year, and that is we played hard enough defensively but we haven’t run hard enough on offense, we have not taken care of the ball well enough and those two things create a ton of problems.”
Michigan State created plenty of issues in Tuesday’s loss to No. 2 Kentucky, a 21-point blowout that featured 20 Spartans turnovers and 32.8 percent shooting.
It was much of the same last week in the opener against No. 10 Arizona, a team Michigan State led by 15, but ended up losing as time expired. The Spartans had 18 turnovers — but shot better than they did against Kentucky.
And while Izzo is still wondering if his team is fatigued from its travel in the first week, he’s also done thinking about it as he looks for a response from his players.
“This weekend I’m not worried about anybody being tired,” Izzo said. “I don’t care if anybody is tired. We’re gonna do like a boxer. When you get punched in the face and knocked to the canvas you go two choices — you can get up or you can lay there. So I’m gonna find out more about my team this weekend than I did last week and at Madison Square Garden.
“We embarrassed ourselves and our program a little bit in how we played with the turnovers and things like that. We did some good things, and in that first half (against Kentucky) we did a lot of good things. But if we embarrass ourselves that’s one thing, if we embarrass what this program has stood for as far as the foolishness or just being casual … we’re putting it on these guys and we’ll see if they’re ready to play.”
With Mississippi Valley State in town Friday followed by Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday, it’s the perfect time for Izzo to find out if his team is ready. Much of that lies not only on the freshmen and Miles Bridges — who struggled against Kentucky and vowed he’d never play like that again — but it also is up to the veterans to play better.
And no one needs to up their game more than senior guard Eron Harris, who has nine points the first two games.
“Sometimes when one guy is struggling, two things are happening,” Izzo said. “No. 1, when you move from a role player to a main player sometimes that’s a struggle. But don’t kid yourselves, our lack of screening, our lack of ball movement, lack of fast break, does not put Eron in the same place that he needs to be.
“He’s got to get more screens, he’s got to come off them, he’s got to work harder.”
Harris admitted to some frustration, but also is confident things will start to come together.
“I understand I’m a huge component as a senior,” Harris said. “I haven’t been producing offensively like I should and that’s gonna pick up. We just have to find out how to spread around the production. We’ve got guys that can attack. We have to bring the potential out of all the guys.
“Once we get all the pieces to the puzzle right, it’s gonna be something dangerous.”
Putting those pieces together could start Friday with the first of two manageable games at home before heading to the Bahamas next week for the Battle 4 Atlantis.
And while there is some frustration with the players and how they’ve performed, Izzo not slowing down.
“As upset as I am about certain things, I’m not discouraged at all,” Izzo said. “I felt like we got a lot done in practice and it isn’t good to go longer a day before a game, but I’m happy with it, I’m excited about it. We can’t play war and all those things and we’re getting to be a softer team a little bit, but we just can’t do the things we do here because of the injuries we’ve had. So we’re finding different ways. One way or another I’m gonna get it done.”
Mississippi Valley State at Michigan State
Tipoff: 7 Friday, Breslin Center, East Lansing
Records: Mississippi Valley State 0-3, 13 Michigan State 0-2
Outlook: Tom Izzo is 21-0 in home openers. … The last time Michigan State opened 0-2 was in 2011-12, when it won a share of the Big Ten and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.