East Lansing — Plenty of folks expected Michigan State had a chance to win a championship over the weekend at the PK80 Invitational in Portland.
Most, however, didn’t expect the Spartans to roll to three double-digit victories, especially an 18-point win over North Carolina where the Tar Heels shot 24.6 percent from the field, the worst performance in program history.
There’s no doubt Michigan State played well defensively, good enough that it overshadowed another miserable performance taking care of the basketball as the Spartans turned the ball over 24 times yet ran away with the game. It’s been an issue in the young season and was last season when Michigan State turned it over 20 or more times in three games.
“If you watch the 24 turnovers, which I have numerous times against Carolina, they were bizarre turnovers, you know, illegal picks,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said on Tuesday. “You think of most turnovers as sloppy passes, there weren’t as many of those as there were bizarre turnovers. But it doesn’t matter either way, you don’t get a chance to make a basket and that’s kind of what a turnover is, it depletes you the opportunity to score a basket.
“When you’re a team that’s shooting 50, 51 percent, every time you turn the ball over you’re losing a point, at least. You get a three or get to the free-throw line or get an offensive rebound you might even get more. So, that has to be cleaned up.”
Through six games, No. 3 Michigan State is turning the ball over on 22.8 percent of its possessions, which ranks 303rd in the nation, according to KenPom.com. It was a similar problem last season as the Spartans turned the ball over on 20.4 percent of their possessions, which ranked 304th.
Sophomore point guard Cassius Winston has turned it over 16 times in six games, and he believes it’s something the Spartans (5-1) can dictate.
“We just have to play at our pace,” he said. “We have to learn how to control the game on our end. Sometimes we get too sped up and let the other team determine what we’re doing on the offensive end and we’ve just got to make the defense play at our pace and dictate what we want them to do.”
It all goes back to the fact Izzo believes the Spartans are hurting themselves far more than opposing defenses.
“When you look at the last game and look at the turnovers, I think maybe five were caused by the defense,” said senior Lourawls Nairn Jr., who has just five turnovers in six games. “So, it’s just us. We have to stop being so careless with the ball and value the basketball a little bit more and tighten it up if we want to go to the next level.”
Junior forward Kenny Goins went through a limited practice on Tuesday as he continues to work back from a knee injury that has forced him to miss the last four games.
Izzo said there’s a chance he could be ready to play against No. 5 Notre Dame on Thursday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“He’s seems to be doing real well, there’s no real damage, it’s just cleaning it up a little bit,” Izzo said. “So, there is a chance in that, that would help us especially on the perimeter and it gives us some options with moving Miles (Bridges) around a little bit which would help.”
Junior guard Matt McQuaid also took it easy during practice on Tuesday as he is hoping the sprained arch in his foot is better by Thursday.
The injury started to bother him during the second game against UConn, but McQuaid fought through some pain to play against North Carolina.
“He flat-out sucked it up,” Izzo said. “It wasn’t that we were worried about doing anything wrong to it, it was more about could he withstand the pain, and it’s in a strange area if you’re a guard especially. But he really improved that day a little bit, and since he’s been home. … I think he’ll get back to normal pretty quick.”