East Lansing — Turnovers, spacing and defending the 3-point line. If Tom Izzo had it his way, those three areas would be completely fixed before conference play gets underway again.
Michigan State has two non-conference games left to work on those areas but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be content with his team when he knows there’s no ceiling.
“What we tried to do over Christmas was trying to really look hard at things we don’t think we’re good enough at,” Izzo said. “Guys came back great (from holiday break). I’m really pleased with how they came back.”
Izzo isn’t the only one who realizes that despite being 12-1 and ranked No. 2 in the nation, Michigan State has its flaws.
Miles Bridges has been a leader since stepping foot on campus as a freshman and he knows better than anyone that the Spartans have plenty of work to do before he can talk about March.
“In these non-conference games, we need to focus on things we need to get better on, like turnovers, rebounding and stopping the 3-point shot,” Bridges said.
Although facing Cleveland State and Savannah State may seem like warm-up games to the casual observer, Bridges sees ways to use these games to get better.
More specifically, ways to excel in Big Ten action.
To prepare for teams that like to drive and others that shoot 3-pointers at a high rate, Michigan State looks at Cleveland State and Savannah State, respectively, as ideal games to prep with.
“It’s preparing us for Purdue, they shoot a lot of threes,” Bridges said. “A team like Rutgers or Maryland, they drive the ball a lot. It’s just preparing us for the Big Ten teams.”
Michigan State may be a heavy favorite against Cleveland State, but Bridges alluded to the fact that the Spartans are going to get everyone’s best effort. Staying focused for the task at hand is a priority for this team.
Izzo may have been pleased with how his team returned from the short break, but won’t be pleased until the hard work at practice translates on game days.
“I’m still not happy with (turnovers),” Izzo said. “If you make a turnover that’s aggressive, that’s one thing. If you make a turnover that’s casual, we’re going to have to start sitting guys. You can’t make casual turnovers.”
For those heading to East Lansing for Friday's game against Cleveland State, don’t expect the frozen pipe that burst at Breslin Center on Wednesday to affect anything. The pipe has been replaced and the floor avoided any damage.
Cleveland State at No. 2 Michigan State
Tip-off: 6 p.m. Friday, Breslin Center, East Lansing
Records: Michigan State 12-1, Cleveland State 3-9
Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer.