MSU's Ward, Goins, Winston on win at Rutgers The Detroit News
Piscataway, N.J. — Over the past few games, Michigan State has been turning the ball over 100 times a game.
Actually, that’s just the way it’s felt, at least according to coach Tom Izzo. In reality, Michigan State’s penchant for giving the ball away had led to 41 turnovers in the previous two games — 24 in a win over Texas and 17 in Tuesday’s loss at Louisville.
So, entering Friday’s Big Ten opener at Rutgers, taking care of the ball was priority No. 1 for the Spartans and they responded by turning it over just seven times in their 78-67 victory at the Rutgers Athletic Center. It matched the fewest turnovers they’ve had in a game all season after giving the ball up seven times in a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
“My staff and I, we hammered on it for two days,” Izzo said. “We showed them film. We showed them film of all the turnovers. We showed them film of all the reaching fouls. And so maybe the truth is we did a better job, which means we didn’t do a better job early. I don’t know if it is a lack of focus, just sometimes guys want to do things they can’t do. Do your job means do what you’re capable of doing. When you want to try and invent things it doesn’t work out usually.
“It was better but now we’ve got to grow, we’ve got to build on this because it’s ridiculous to turn the ball over 13 times in the first half like against Kansas, 12 times the other night and 11 times against Texas. It can’t happen.”
Matt Charboneau on MSU's win at Rutgers to open Big Ten play The Detroit News
Junior Joshua Langford and freshman Aaron Henry had two turnovers each on Friday with no other Michigan State player committing more than one.
Even more importantly, Rutgers scored just three points off the Spartans’ miscues.
“We just wanted to come in and take care of the ball,” Langford said. “The biggest thing now is to be able to build off it. We need to be consistent and I feel like if we become a consistent team the better of a championship-level team we will become because we area a championship-level team. It’s about fixing the little mistakes and taking care of ball and doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Senior guard Matt McQuaid missed his second straight game with a deep thigh bruise he suffered last Friday in the victory over Texas.
The injury swelled up significantly on the flight home last week from Las Vegas, which led the medical staff to leave McQuaid at home both for the game at Rutgers and Tuesday’s game at Louisville.
McQuaid’s status for the Big Ten home opener against Iowa on Monday remains unclear.
“He’s making progress and he was shooting a little bit yesterday,” Izzo said. “So, it’s day to day and we’ll find out tomorrow a little more. If I was a betting man I’d really question it for Monday. I just don’t know if you can come back from that when he couldn’t walk two days, three days ago.”
Michigan State is now 15-9 in Big Ten Conference openers under Izzo. The Spartans won last season’s conference opener at home, beating Nebraska, 86-57.
... The Spartans are 7-8 in Big Ten road openers under Izzo. The last time MSU opened Big Ten play on the road was on Dec. 27, 2016, at Minnesota, a 75-74 overtime victory.
… Friday’s attendance was 8,000, marking the first November sellout at the RAC since the Scarlet Knights hosted Princeton on Nov. 22, 1997.