Spartans welcome game break for more practice time

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — While Michigan State’s players focus on finishing up the semester with final exams this week, they’ll also be looking to use the extra time off to prepare for the next couple of weeks.

That includes two more nonconference games, beginning with Northeastern on Sunday and a visit from Oakland next week, before Big Ten play begins with two games – at Minnesota and home against Northwestern – before the end of the year.

“The next 10 days as we know are pretty important to us,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Not that there is going to be nearly the free time or practice time that we have had other years, but somehow and someway between finals and Christmas we are going to try to get more opportunities to look at the things that we have not been able to look at.

“We have finals this week and two games between a lot better teams then maybe the last four or five have been. We need to continue to improve on the court and we need to continue to improve our conditioning and maybe our execution.”

The first part of the season offered Michigan State (7-4) little practice time as it traveled across the country from high-profile games.

Now that the Spartans have some time in between games, most of the work is being limited to conditioning, time in the film room and individual workouts. They will get a chance to practice at least three times this week, but Izzo won’t push them at the expense of closing the semester strong.

“These guys have been through a hell of a semester as far as academically with all of the classes they’ve missed,” he said. “It’s not been easy for them. So hopefully, I think we’re regrouping pretty good in that area, but it’s taken some work. We gotta really judge how we are mentally, not just physically.”

One player who Izzo hopes is taking advantage of the time is freshman forward Miles Bridges, who has missed the last three games with an injury to his left ankle. Izzo said on Monday Bridges is working a bit harder on his conditioning but doesn’t anticipate him taking the boot off his foot until next week.

In the meantime, Izzo and his staff have been coming up with different ways for Bridges to continue to progress, even though he’s not on the court.

Spartans’ free-throw scuffles irk Izzo

“The last game we sat Miles with a note pad so see what he liked and didn’t like, to see if he is really watching a game to get better or just watching the game,” Izzo said. “As soon as he is done with finals we are going to go over the last three or four games and then we are going to look at some of his games.

“We just don’t want to waste a day because we know the process coming back is gonna take some time. So anything we can do. It’s kind of a new thing for me too to try to really put a guy in a position mentally to be ready.”

When Bridges does return, it will likely be around the time Big Ten play begins and Michigan State will do so with two teams that are a combined 17-3. That’s a big more daunting than it might have seemed when the schedule came out, but Izzo is more focused on what’s happening now.

“I’m just trying to survive until Santa gets here, and then I’m going to figure out how to adapt after that,” Izzo said. “Right now, we’re just keeping our head above water. And I think that means we’re moving in the right direction.”

McQuaid update

Izzo said sophomore guard Matt McQuaid is making progress after missing Saturday’s game against Tennessee Tech because of concussion-like symptoms.

McQuaid, after taking a shot to the head in practice last Thursday, began working out on Sunday.

“He went through it pretty well,” Izzo said. “Today he’s gonna try to go through some of the practice and after he’ll try and do some running and shooting. But I see no issue from what they tell me, today and tomorrow will be big days.

“But I see no issue as far as getting him back. It hasn’t been pronounced a concussion, it was concussion symptoms. So, I think he’ll be good to go.”