Michigan State's guard rotation with Rocket Watts, Foster Loyer remains up in air

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo tried shuffling his starting lineup on Sunday at Ohio State, looking to unlock the combination to a struggling offense.

Sophomore Rocket Watts was back in as the starting point guard and freshman A.J. Hoggard came off the bench after starting the last four games for the Spartans.

Michigan State's Foster Loyer, right, passes the ball past Ohio State's Meechie Johnson during the first half of a 79-62 Spartans' loss to the Buckeyes on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.

And while it would be hard to pin the Spartans’ woes on one position, the tinkering with the lineup failed to have the desired effect as No. 13 Ohio State took advantage of another poor shooting performance by Michigan State on Sunday to earn the 79-62 victory.

Heading to No. 7 Iowa on Tuesday, Izzo is unsure of where things stand at the point guard spot, one that includes junior Foster Loyer.

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“I don't know,” Izzo said. “I just know this, a lot of people are rotating people, and I'm going to keep rotating until I find the right rotation. But, you know, it wasn't very good.”

Watts, who started the season at point guard then moved back to his more natural shooting guard spot, didn’t provide the spark the Spartans (8-6, 2-6 Big Ten) were hoping for. He scored six points on 2-for-9 shooting and had just two assists while committing two turnovers in 26 minutes of action.

At one point late in the game, a frustrated Watts smacked the chair as he came to the bench, upset that things were not going well.

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“He had an unbelievable day yesterday (in practice),” Izzo said of Watts. “He looked like some of my old point guards and when he got back in the game, he just reverted back a little bit.

“But I don't know what I'm gonna do. I’ve got it two days to think about it.”

Loyer played 19 minutes but scored just three points and didn’t have an assist while Hoggard saw just five minutes of action, missing his only shot and committing one turnover.

“You’d like to have it so it's solid more than it is,” Izzo said. “But at the same time, I’ll play the people that are the best.”

Hauser starts

After injuring his ankle in Thursday’s loss to Rutgers, junior Joey Hauser was back in the starting lineup against the Buckeyes. He scored 11 points — the first time he’s been in double-figures since scoring 25 against Wisconsin on Christmas Day — on 5-for-11 shooting in 34 minutes.

It wasn’t exactly a standout performance, but it was at least something to get him headed in the right direction.

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“I don't think much changed,” Hauser said. “Guys have been continually telling me, ‘You need to shoot more.’ Coach has been saying to me, ‘You need to shoot more.’ So it really was on me to be more aggressive, demand the ball in the post. My teammates have had my back on that the whole time, so it really was on me.”

As for the ankle, Hauser appeared to tweak it at one point in the second half but said he’s OK.

“I'm doing fine,” he said. “It didn't limit my mobility at all. Just a tiny bit of pain. It's a little sprain, so it was nothing much.”

Slam dunks

Former Spartan Kyle Ahrens was in the arena on Sunday. His brother, Justin, plays for Ohio State, so as a family member, Kyle Ahrens was able to attend.

Justin Ahrens hit a pair of 3-pointers for the Buckeyes and finished with seven points.

… Tuesday night’s game at Iowa will tip off at 7 p.m., it was announced on Sunday.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau