East Lansing – Joshua Langford took 12 shots in Michigan State’s exhibition opener against Ferris State last week and didn’t make a single one.
That’s 0-for-12 in 26 minutes of action for a sophomore who is expected to be a big part of the Spartans’ offense this season.
So, as Michigan State, the No. 2 team in the preseason rankings, got set to take on Georgia on Sunday in an exhibition game in Grand Rapids, coach Tom Izzo wasn’t about to change his approach with the 6-foot-5 guard.
“You’ve got to back on the horse,” said Izzo, recalling his message to Langford. “To his credit, he came back and his whole demeanor was different.”
It was, indeed, as Langford made his first shot and finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including 1-for-3 from 3-point range.
They weren’t numbers that were going to jump off the stat sheet, but the way in which Langford played – confident and fast – was the real eye-opener after he allowed the poor shooting night against Ferris State affect his entire game.
“I think he learned a lesson too, which I hope we all do, that your offense shouldn’t dictate (how you play),” Izzo said. “I mean, he was on that offensive glass, which you didn’t see there but you saw on film. He and Miles (Bridges) kept a couple balls alive that they didn’t get the rebound that other people did and we scored on them. He did a lot more than just 10 or 12 points, whatever he had. Defensively, he was improving. We’re improving.”
As much as Langford wanted to make shots, improving his overall game was the focus heading into the Georgia game.
“You don’t want to be a one-dimensional player, especially in my position,” Langford said. “A lot of the two guards at this level, they’re all great two-way players. You see all the great two guards are great two-way players. So, the biggest thing for me is I wanted to become a lockdown defender. I think I have the attributes to do it. It’s just a want-to, saying, ‘I’m not going to let my man score on me. I’m going to box out. I’m going to get this defensive rebound.’ I think that’s what separates the good to the great players.”
As Michigan State gets set to host Hillsdale at 7 p.m. Friday in the final exhibition game, there’s no doubt that approach should help Langford as he heads into his second season with the Spartans.
His first didn’t go exactly as planned. A hamstring injury suffered just before the season began limited the McDonald’s All-American and hampered him much of the season. But in the final few weeks and into the NCAA Tournament, Langford started to show glimpses of what he could do offensively.
It was Langford’s focus throughout the summer as he shined in the Moneyball Pro-Am. However, the consistency is still coming and Langford hopes he’s allowed shooting to affect his entire game for the last time.
“Some days you can go 12-for-12; some days you can go 0-for-12,” Langford said. “You saw me do it against Ferris. I think the biggest thing for me is that I was locked in defensively (vs. Georgia). When I was locked in defensively, that opened up the offense for me. I think I did good because I was locked in defensively, not because I was making shots but because I was doing my job.”
Michigan State vs. Hillsdale
What: Third and final exhibition game for Michigan State
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing
Radio: WJR 760