Michigan State went into Columbus, Ohio. on Sunday afternoon looking to build off their beat down at home of Minnesota, but left with a loss and multiple question marks heading into the bulk of their Big Ten schedule, as the Spartans fell to Ohio State 72-67.
24 points and nine rebounds from freshman phenom Miles Bridges wasn’t enough for MSU (12-7 OVR, 4-2 in B1G) to stop the freight train that was Ohio State (11-7 OVR, 1-4 in B1G). JaQuan Lyle led OSU with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, with Marc Loving and Jae’Sean Tate adding 12 points apiece. Apart from Bridges, not a single Spartan scored in double figures, and nobody else seemed to want the ball in their hands to take over the game.
Nick Ward got into foul trouble early and ended up with nine points (averaging 13.6 this season), Josh Langford had eight points, all of which came in the first half, and senior Eron Harris only mustered six points. Michigan State wasn’t the best team, and it showed.
Although they shot 50 percent from the field and 47 percent from three, Ohio State always had an answer to whatever MSU had in mind. They were stifling defensively, shot well beyond their average of low-30’s from beyond the arc and had a ruckus home crowd at their backs. Give them all the credit, they earned this win.
MANAGING THE RUNS
MSU began the game shooting 6-of-6 from the field and got out to a 15-7 lead. But following the red hot start was a 9-0 run from Ohio State. That would prove to be a theme throughout the game, as OSU would go on two similar runs (11-0, 10-0) pulling away from Michigan State. Basketball is a game of runs. It’s a matter of stopping the opposing team’s run at the right time. The Spartans failed to do that on Sunday, and thus, lost.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE LINEUPS?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? The lineup that sparked that early lead was Tum Tum Nairn Jr., Harris, Langford, Bridges and Ward. But instead of riding the hot hand, Tom Izzo opted to go in a different direction. He played senior Alvin Ellis III (seven points) 14 minutes in the second half, whereas Langford only played ten. He played Matt McQuaid (five points) 13 minutes, but only played Harris for three. Kenny Goins also played nine minutes to Ward’s ten due to Ward receiving his fourth foul with about four minutes remaining in the game.
With the Spartans down multiple possessions with under one minute to go, Nairn Jr., McQuaid, Ellis, Bridges and Goins were on the floor, not Harris or Langford. Michigan State ended up turning the basketball over (one of 17 to OSU’s 11 on the day), and was forced to intentionally foul. Moving forward, players who can be counted on to score, not create, will almost certainly be in the game down the stretch, ready to deliver when needed.
MSU MAY HAVE FINALLY FOUND ITS LEADER
It’s not who we thought it may have been coming into the season. We figured that a senior like Eron Harris or Gavin Schilling would follow in the footsteps of Travis Trice or Denzel Valentine and do what Tom Izzo coaches teams usually do, follow their seniors. But it’s been evident in the past two months that Harris is too inconsistent to rely on in critical junctures.
Although he missed a chunk of games and recently has come back, Miles Bridges is asserting himself as the leader of this freshman-laden team. There is no statistical measure to analyze here, but if you watched this game, you knew.
You saw Bridges put East Lansing on his back down the stretch and try to lead his team to a comeback victory on the road. When nobody else seemed to want to step up, Bridges relished the opportunity, and went for over 20 points, including a couple pivotal three pointers. Big time players make big time plays in big time games. While Bridges has yet to do that, he’s showing that he’s capable of doing so.
GUARD PLAY IS A WEAK SPOT
As CBS’ Seth Davis mentioned it on the post-game show, college basketball is heavily reliant on guard play. For Michigan State, that seems to be a problem. Although Nairn Jr. played extremely well, driving to the lane countless times and ending up with four points and eight dimes, the guard play from MSU has been lacking.
Cassius Winston had one of his worst games of the season, scoring only one point in 11 minutes, and Harris and McQuaid’s struggles have already been acknowledged. Ward’s dominance down low and Bridges’ ability to beat you from almost anywhere on the court should open more room and options for MSU’s ball handlers to come out of their shells. But so far, they haven’t.
Michigan States next contest comes on Saturday from Bloomington, Ind. against the Indiana Hoosiers (12-6 OVR, 2-3 B1G) before coming back home to the friendly confines of Jack Breslin Student Events Center on Jan. 24 for a crucial matchup against Purdue.