'It's not Panicksville': Slumping MSU outgunned 81-56 by Minnesota, 0-3 in Big Ten
It was just more than a week ago that Michigan State entered Big Ten play unbeaten and ranked as the No. 4 team in the nation.
Eight days later, things have crumbled quickly as the Spartans have lost three in a row to begin conference play, capped by another listless effort on Monday as No. 21 Minnesota jumped on No. 17 Michigan State quickly and never let up, rolling to an 81-56 victory Monday at Williams Arena, the largest margin of victory ever for the Golden Gophers over the Spartans.
It’s the first time Michigan State (6-3, 0-3 Big Ten) has lost its first three conference games since the 2001-02 season and it ended a five-game winning streak over Minnesota. It was also the first time the Spartans lost at Williams Arena since 2012.
But even after another outing that was summed up by more confused looks from the players than missed shots, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wasn’t losing his mind afterward.
“It’s not Panicksville,” Izzo said. “We just missed shot after shot after shot.”
It might not be as simple as just missed shots, but the numbers certainly would suggest it was the case.
It was a miserable night on both ends for the floor for Michigan State, which finished the game 18-for-70 shooting for 25.7%, including just 6-for-25 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Spartans could do nothing with Minnesota’s 14 turnovers, getting only five points off the giveaways.
The Spartans didn’t have a single player score in double figures until the final two minutes as Aaron Henry managed to reach 11 points. Henry, Joey Hauser and Rocket Watts combined to shoot 5-for-27 while Joshua Langford was 2-for-10. Minnesota also outrebounded Michigan State, 52-36.
“I think we did a great job the couple days prior of working our butts off to really prepare to go win a game,” said junior guard Foster Loyer, who started for the second time this season. “I think it was an instance of going out there and not seeing a couple of those shots go down early. I thought we did a better job having our teammates back and continuing to fight, but it just wasn't our night for shooting the ball. I think that led to easy baskets on their end and it kind of defeated us.”
Marcus Carr scored 19 for Minnesota (9-1, 2-1) and Liam Robbins added 18 for the Gophers, who were coming off an overtime victory over Iowa.
“We were just terrific right from the beginning,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “I thought we set the tone, especially since Michigan State is so well-coached, so talented, and so physical.”
It was clear from the get-go that the Spartans were in for another long night as they missed their first five shots and watched the Gophers jump out to a 9-0 lead before getting on the board.
But the early poor shooting was just the start as Michigan State could do nothing offense, was back to turning the ball over and piled up its usual amount of defensive gaffes to lead to one of the more inexplicable halves of basketball in a long time.
After Hauser hit a baseline jumper to pull Michigan State within 15-9, the Spartans proceeded to miss their next 12 shots as Minnesota reeled off a 16-2 run to take control of the game with the only two points for Michigan State in that stretch coming at the free-throw line.
Langford’s 3-pointer ended the skid and Henry added a jumper, but a mysterious defensive switch left Carr open for a three to close the half with the Gophers up, 36-16. Michigan State was 6-for-38 shooting (15.8%), including just 2-for-12 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
Things remained essentially the same in the second half as Michigan State scored five quick points only to give up a 9-0 run as Minnesota continued to stretch out its lead, one that grew to 26 points with less than four minutes to play.
Afterward, Izzo continued to lament the poor offense as the culprit. He tried to shuffle the lineup to begin the game, bringing Henry off the bench and moving Watts to shooting guard, but nothing seemed to work.
“I have no problem with our defense,” Izzo said. “It was our offense and trying to maneuver some people around, give some people a chance. I tried to get Rocket off the point because that's what he kind of wanted and he struggled a little bit there. But, in general, we had open shots. Hauser had open shots, Langford had open shots. I thought Gabe (Brown) had some open shots, and we just missed shot after shot. The good thing is it wasn't defensively. I'm gonna build on that. The bad thing is it was offensively and I'm gonna try to improve that.”
The Spartans will have to improve before heading to Nebraska on Saturday, still searching for their first Big Ten victory after going unbeaten in six nonconference games.
“Going forward we’ve got to have a gut check,” Loyer said. “We’ve got to have a realization that we’ve got to make some changes. We’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to change and we got to change it. As a captain I think it's my job and it's our job to realize we're three games into the Big Ten (season) and we have 17 to go. We’re not going to be defeated. We’re not going to give up on ourselves. We're going to go back and watch our film, learn what we need to fix and then, most importantly, we're gonna go out there and make those changes and go forward.”