'There is an upside': MSU hoops looks to put it on display vs. WMU

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State spent Tuesday night shooting itself in the foot.

The Spartans then spent Wednesday watching it on film — over and over again. By Thursday, the work had begun in an effort to iron out the opening-night kinks as Michigan State looks to rebound from the loss to No. 3 Kansas in the Champions Classic by playing host to Western Michigan on Friday for the home opener.

“Very disappointed in us in a positive way,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, doing his best to sum up what took place against the Jayhawks in New York. “And I'm not trying to sugarcoat it. I did not think we did the things that you need to do to beat good teams. And yet, we were right there with them most of the night with an opportunity. But every time we made a big play, we gave up a dunk, and then the turnovers in the missed free throws. … Some of those things are inexcusable and I was disappointed in our performance.

“But as I watched the tape for the fourth and fifth time, I just thought there were so many things that we did not do in practice that we did in that game.”

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, left, talks to Tyson Walker (2) during the second half of the season opener against Kansas.

The turnovers — Michigan State gave the ball up 16 times which Kansas turned into 16 points — and the missed free throws were the biggest. The Spartans were only 9-for-16 from the line while the Jayhawks were 19-for-24. That’s a 10-point swing that’s made even more critical when you add in the giveaways.

“I'd say the biggest positive from anything that we just watched is that all of our mistakes are easily fixable,” freshman Max Christie said. “It's not really any glaring mistakes that we can't fix and that can't be done really quickly. So I think that was the biggest positive for us seeing these mistakes that we made. It was just so easily fixable and avoidable. That's something that we'll capitalize off for sure.”

It was a common refrain after Michigan State went through the film and started to look ahead to Western Michigan.

For Christie, it was a fairly harsh welcome to college basketball. The five-star recruit has been highly touted by Izzo and looked comfortable in the two exhibition games. However, Christie had just nine points on 3-for-10 shooting and struggled to defend Kansas star Ochai Agbaji, who scored 29.

Subscribers: Shaky start for MSU provides blueprint for necessary areas of improvement

“He just missed some shots,” Izzo said. “But he played pretty well. I mean, I’m more than happy with Max's play, but he's learning too, and that's gonna get better.”

That not only includes shooting the ball — Christie was 2-for-5 from 3-point range — but defensively, as well. Christie said he takes it as a challenge to guard the other team’s top player, and on more than one occasion, Agbaji left Christie standing still.

“Of course, he did some things that I could have done better defensively, blowing by me every now and then and stuff like that,” Christie said. “But I took it as something like a challenge. (It is) something that I want to keep improving on defensively.”

He’ll get plenty of opportunity to do so, playing a team-high 31 minutes against Kansas. It’s something that is likely to continue, and Christie is up for it, doing his best to put the opener behind him and get the Spartans headed in the right direction.

“As a first game, you have to sort of just watch a lot of film and just see what you did wrong and what you did right and just build on it,” Christie said. “So just making sure that you're taking it with a grain of salt, making sure that you're looking at things that you need to look at, and not being too hard on yourself because it's your first game.”

Izzo is confident he’ll get more out of Christie soon, as well as plenty of others on the roster like guard Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins. Walker got in early foul trouble while Akins had his share of freshman moments against Kansas. Izzo also wants to get Gabe Brown and Malik Hall more shots while keeping Marcus Bingham Jr. on the block and seeing if Julius Marble builds on an impressive opener.

Izzo also liked the way Joey Hauser played along with A.J. Hoggard, who was outstanding offensively but had some breakdowns on defense.

“We’ve got some work to do, a lot of work to do,” Izzo said. “But there is an upside to what I saw last night. I’m not being optimistic, being realistic — a real big upside.”

More: MSU basketball signs pair of four-star recruits

Western Michigan at Michigan State

►Tip-off: 6:30 p.m., Friday, Breslin Center, East Lansing

►TV/radio: Big Ten Network/760

►Records: Western Michigan 1-0; Michigan State 0-1

►Outlook: The Broncos beat Hope, 76-58, in their season-opener on Wednesday. … This is the third straight season Michigan State has faced Western Michigan after having not played since 1998.

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Twitter: @mattcharboneau