Michigan State coach talks about his team's performance in Thursday's 91-61 win. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
East Lansing — While some people are vowing to lose weight in the new year, there was a different resolution in mind for the Michigan State basketball team.
There hadn’t been much that needed fixing through the first two months of the season save for one glaring problem — turnovers.
Entering Thursday night’s game at the Breslin Center against Maryland, the top-ranked Spartans were averaging 14.3 turnovers a game. Twice this season they had turned the ball over more than 20 times and in the lone loss to Duke, Michigan State gave it up 17 times.
So, entering 2018, eliminating those miscues was at the top of the list.
“It’s definitely important because we’re an unselfish team,” sophomore Miles Bridges said. “But what we wanted to work on was turnovers. That was one of our New Year’s resolutions, the turnovers.”
It seemed to work as Michigan State jumped back into Big Ten play on Thursday by rolling over Maryland, 91-61. The numbers were impressive as the Spartans shot 57.1 percent from the field, handed out 30 assists and held Maryland to 7-for-25 shooting in the second half.
The big number, however, was seven. That’s how many turnovers the Spartans had, including just one in the second half.
“I thought the most impressive stat for us was to have seven turnovers,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Our guys were more fired up about that than almost the win."
Point guard Cassius Winston had eight assists on Thursday and did not turn the ball over once while backup Tum Tum Nairn had just one turnover.
Of the seven total turnovers, two were offensive fouls.
“Tonight we kept it simple,” Winston said. “We didn’t force any plays, we didn’t rush anything. We might have had a couple offensive fouls and that was counted, but we went for singles and kept pounding it at them slowly but surely.”
There has been no magic cure to the turnover woes and time will tell if the Spartans can consistently hang on to the ball. But the last couple of weeks have been crucial, Izzo said.
More time in meetings and showing film has helped as he and his staff have pushed to show the difference between a good team and a great team. That work was evidence not only in the numbers on Thursday but how the team reacted.
“I was pleased at the end of the game to hear Miles say, ‘Anybody turns it over’ … and he went on,” Izzo said, choosing to edit the story. “God, I was proud of him and that meant a lot, too.”
Michigan State players talk about the unselfishness and taking care of the ball in Thursday's 91-61 win. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
Work pays off for Goins
Over the summer, Kenny Goins put in plenty of work on his jump shot, enough for him to light it up in the Moneyball Pro-Am league.
However, as the season progressed, the junior forward hadn’t seen the same results, having not even attempted a 3-pointer until last week against Savannah State. He missed that shot, but on Thursday, Goins nailed two in a row, something the Terrapins weren’t counting on.
“It was not on our scouting report that he can shoot threes, that’s for darn sure,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “He shot it like he had been working on it, and he continued to shoot it like he had been working on them. Those were big.”
Goins shot them like that because he has been working on it.
“Just more time in the gym working every day and getting confident in my own mind before I could show it to the coaches,” Goins said. “If you shoot with confidence the coaches back you up on it because they see you working on it.
“I haven’t hit (a three) yet so I’m sure I wasn’t really on the scouting report but who knows, maybe I will be later in the year.”
Izzo admitted he’d given Goins a hard time about shooting threes and told Goins it would take more work to gain his trust.
“He wasn’t shooting well and I said, ‘You spend more time in here, you can shoot threes,' because I chewed him out for shooting a three a week ago,” Izzo said. “I was glad that he just stuck it in my face to be honest with you and I enjoyed that.”
The victory was the 200th Big Ten win for Michigan State at Breslin Center. The Spartans improved to 200-44 in Big Ten play at Breslin, including 159-31 under Tom Izzo.
… The Spartans made a season-high 16 3-point field goals, matching the third-best effort in program history.
… Michigan State scored 90-plus points for the seventh time this season. By comparison, the Spartans topped 90 points just twice last season. Michigan State scored more than 80 points for the seventh straight game and the 12th time in 16 games.