'We got punked': Out-of-sync Michigan State trounced by Rutgers 67-37
Michigan State hadn’t played a game in almost three weeks when it took the court on Thursday night at Rutgers, and it showed.
Whether it was spotting the Scarlet Knights 15 points to open the game, turning the ball over a season-high 21 times, getting outrebounded by nine or shooting 20% from 3-point range, the Spartans looked like they hardly touched a ball during the 20 days since they last played.
Rutgers was more than happy to take advantage, blowing out Michigan State, 67-37, the first time the Scarlet Knights have beaten the Spartans in 12 all-time matchups. It was also the first time Michigan State failed to score 40 points in a game since Jan. 12, 2008, when it scored just 36 at Iowa, and it was the largest margin of defeat since a 98-63 loss to No. 1 North Carolina on Dec. 3, 2008.
“We got punked,” sophomore Malik Hall said.
After the game, however, the Spartans weren’t using the COVID-induced break as an excuse.
“I thought they brought more energy,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought we had one of our best shoot-arounds today, and I thought we had a good practice yesterday. I'm sure we have a little COVID hangover and I understand that, but that will not be an excuse for the way we played. That would be a good excuse for losing a game, but not how we played.”
The Scarlet Knights (9-6, 5-6 Big Ten) hardly played great, but they did have three players score in double figures and after jumping to a 15-point lead to open the game, used an 11-2 run to begin the second half to take control.
Myles Johnson scored 13 and had 14 rebounds for Rutgers while Geo Baker scored 11 and Jacob Young added 10.
Michigan State (8-5, 2-5) was out of sync for most of the game, outside of the second half of the first half when it pulled within three. No player scored in double figures as the Spartans were just 16-for-56 shooting.
Aaron Henry had six turnovers while three more players had three each, and the Michigan State junior was ducking any blame.
“I put this on me,” said Henry, who scored seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. “From a leadership standpoint and my role on the team, this has nothing to do with 20 days off. It had nothing to do with the time we missed and our mental approach, and honestly, it starts with me. Just the intensity and the intangible things just weren't there. Shots didn’t fall, but it’s Big Ten basketball. A lot of shots aren’t gonna fall for a lot of teams. It’s who competes the hardest and tonight we didn’t compete. I take responsibility for that.”
The rust was hard to knock off for the Spartans in the first six minutes of the game as they turned the ball over five times and only managed to take three shots. Meanwhile, Rutgers was cruising, jumping out to a 15-0 lead while grabbing three offensive rebounds and making seven of its first 11 shots.
But a solid stretch by center Marcus Bingham started to help shift the momentum as Michigan State started to rebound and forced the Scarlet Knights to turn the ball over while taking care of the ball itself. The Spartans turned over six times in the first 5:30 and then just once the rest of the half.
A 10-0 run for the Spartans cut a 22-9 deficit to just 22-19, one that could have gotten smaller if Joshua Langford didn’t miss a layup. Still, Michigan State grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the opening half and scored 13 second-chance points to trail 26-20 at halftime.
The second half was all Rutgers as Michigan State missed all seven of its 3-point attempts and turned the ball over 12 times. The Scarlet Knights outscored the Spartans, 41-17, in the final 20 minutes as Michigan State heads to Ohio State on Sunday in a stretch of three straight road games that ends on Tuesday at Iowa.
“It starts with me and it doesn’t get any easier on the road,” Henry said. “The next two games are gonna be (against teams) just as good. We got to be better. Honestly, I’ll say it again, it starts with me. I’m holding myself accountable for that. I can’t say much more than that, just disappointed.”