Spartans vow not to beat themselves again in wake of Duke loss
East Lansing — It’s been a few days since Michigan State lost to top-ranked Duke in the Champions Classic, and that time along with plenty of peaks at the game film hasn’t exactly made the Spartans feel any better about the loss.
In the matchup between the top two ranked teams in the nation, the Spartans are convinced they gave the game away as much as the Blue Devils simply just beat them.
“We lost that game, they didn’t beat us,” sophomore Miles Bridges said. “If we’re more aggressive on the boards and limit the turnovers, we definitely win that game.”
Of course, Michigan State (1-1) can’t go back and change things and the fact remains it did not play aggressively on the boards and it did not take care of the basketball. Duke outrebounded Michigan State 46-34 and held a 25-11 advantage on the offensive end while the Spartans turned the ball over 17 times.
The Duke zone had plenty to do with the turnovers as Michigan State struggled to attack it, but that doesn’t explain the poor performance rebounding.
After the game, a frustrated Tom Izzo said he’d eventually find some positives, but the difficulties were still bothering him this week.
“I positively felt like we gave way too many turnovers and I positively felt like we didn’t go to the boards at all,” Izzo said.
“So, those are the two positives I got out of there. I don’t know why I’m joking because it isn’t very funny.”
Headed into Sunday’s game with Stony Brook (0-2) as part of the PK80 Classic, there has been one clear focus and that’s cleaning up those issues as the team spent the bulk of practice Thursday playing the war drill and working on attacking the zone.
The Spartans used freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. in the middle of the zone for large parts of the Duke game but also worked with Bridges, Cassius Winston and Ben Carter the last few days. And if teams look at Michigan State’s struggles and decide to play more zone, Izzo is ready for it.
“If they want I hope so,” Izzo said. “I’ve never worried about that. I’m not trying to talk myself out or into it. We shot 51 percent. … We didn’t attack it well because we haven’t played against it and we put a freshman in the middle which is the most important spot. I did it for the right reasons and felt like he could handle it. He did handle it in some ways, he just wasn’t active enough. Cassius wasn’t active enough. We got caught standing around a lot and that I totally take responsibility for that.”
Izzo said they’ll adjust to the zone and look to get more penetration, but he did manage to find some actual positives from the Duke loss.
“The positives were we shot 51 percent and everyone is worried about how we’ll attack a zone,” Izzo said.
“We attacked it pretty good considering Jaren had so many issues to be in the middle. … So we’ll try some different thing and look at a little more penetration, but we still shot 51 percent and we should have killed the boards because a zone is harder to rebound out of. But we all know we didn’t do that. Assists were a real positive. We had 25 assists on 31 baskets. Other than that, I think we competed. We got down, didn’t quit, came back. When we got up we didn’t know how to put them away.”
The Spartans will hope to improve on that against a Stony Brook team that hung tough with Maryland in the season-opener, then was up double digits on Connecticut before falling down the stretch.
But with a trip to Portland coming next week with potential games against North Carolina, Connecticut or Oregon, the Spartans have focused on not repeating their performance against Duke.
“We were in there for long a long time, meeting with each other,” Winston said. “It’s hard to look back on what you could have done and watching the film to see all the opportunities we had. But at the same time that’s fuel, that’s motivation.
“We’re not gonna let that happen again. We’re not gonna beat ourselves again.”
STONY BROOK AT MICHIGAN STATE
Tip-off: 4 Sunday, Breslin Center, East Lansing
Records: Stony Brook 0-4, No. 2 Michigan State 1-1
Outlook: The game is part of the PK80 Classic, which will be completed next week in Portland, Ore. Michigan State opens there Thursday against DePaul. … This is the first meeting between MSU and Stony Brook. … Second-year coach Jeff Boals spent seven years as an assistant to Thad Matta at Ohio State before taking over last season at Stony Brook. ... The school is New York-based.