Slumping Michigan State switches focus to Maryland
East Lansing — Michigan State came out of Wednesday’s loss to Nebraska feeling down but far from out.
It was the third straight defeat for the Spartans, the first time they’ve done that since 2013, and with No. 7 Maryland coming to the Breslin Center on Saturday, they also realized there was no time to sulk.
“We’re not discouraged whatsoever at this point,” junior Gavin Schilling said before practice on Thursday. “Maybe a little disappointed because the past two losses have been close ones. But we’ll keep our heads held high and keep a positive vibe going and play hard.”
Keeping a positive vibe has become challenging after No. 11 Michigan State (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten) dropped its second straight one-point game, both of which Denzel Valentine had a chance to win with a last-second shot.
But coach Tom Izzo said the Spartans were putting away the Nebraska game tape and turning their focus toward Maryland the only way they know how.
“It’s been disappointing and I’m going to live with that,” Izzo said. “(But) I’m going to outwork it and we are going to get back. That’s the way I feel.”
Getting back will be easier when the Spartans are healthier.
On Thursday, Valentine had an ice pack on the left knee he had surgery on a few weeks ago while senior center Matt Costello received treatment most of the day on his right ankle.
Costello rolled the ankle in the second half on Wednesday and was in a boot on Thursday. Izzo said Costello wouldn’t have played if there was a game on Thursday, but is hopeful he’ll have Costello back on Saturday.
“It’s hurting a little bit but I’ve been getting treatment last night and this morning,” Costello said. “We’ll see if it’s ready for Saturday when it comes. The first day (after the injury) is always worst, so we’ll just see what happens after that, but we’ll know by Saturday.”
Lourawls Nairn isn’t expected back any time soon as Izzo said he has no plans to bring the sophomore back from his plantar fasciitis issue to guard Maryland’s Melo Trimble on Saturday.
Izzo said there are things the doctors and trainers are doing with Nairn that simply take time, and putting him back in the lineup is not a wise choice, even for a team that could use one of its best defenders.
“A lot of those things go through your mind, but that won’t happen,” Izzo said. “I wouldn’t do that do him. I’m the one that made the decision to (sit him). I’m sure not going to do that. Can we get him back earlier? It all depends on how he reacts to this stuff.”
In the meantime, the Spartans will try and end their skid with the personnel they have, and part of making that work could mean not leaning so much on Valentine. He played 38 minutes again on Wednesday and admitted he was feeling it late in the game.
Junior forward Marvin Clark did not play on Wednesday as Izzo continues to juggle the rotation in search of the right combination at both ends of the floor.
Izzo said he wants to get Clark in the game, but he’ll have to do better in two key areas. If that happens, things will come together for a player Izzo said before the season would be starting.
“Defend and rebound a little bit,” Izzo said. “He’s not making many shots since his injury, but he’s gotta do those two things.”
Sticking with it
Michigan State has had plenty of trouble defensively the last few games, but it doesn’t look like there will be any changes to the philosophy any time soon. The Spartans have always been a man-to-man team, and aside from a few situations, they haven’t played zone.
“We’ve toyed with it. We have. We really have,” Izzo said. “(But) how many things can you change in a week or two weeks?.”