Overtime loss to Louisville shows problem areas for Spartans

Fresh off the heels of a comeback victory against Texas to win the Las Vegas Invitational, No. 9 Michigan State headed to Louisville, Ken. to take on the Cardinals in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Spartans once again found themselves in a hole early, but were unable to complete the comeback, falling to Louisville in overtime 82-78 in their first true road game of the season.

Early Struggles

Just like in the last game against Texas, Michigan State came out slow to start the game. The Spartans had 11 totals turnovers in the first half, including five within the first six minutes of the game. Louisville took advantage, jumping out to an early four point lead, 12-8. It was there that the Cardinals began to flex their muscles going on an 18-7 run that saw the lead balloon to as much as 12.

The Spartans also struggled mightily from the field, going just 9-for-23 in the half. After a 29 point outing against Texas, junior guard Joshua Langford was held to just 2 points in the half, missing his three shots from the field in nine minutes of action due to foul trouble.

The Spartans were able to pick it up offensively behind Cassius Winston and Nick Ward, who had 11 and 7 points in the half, respectively. But the early hole made it hard for them to gain control of the game.

Michigan State cannot continue to come out poorly in the first half and expect to come back like they did against Texas. This game should be a huge wake up call.

You have to make the freebies

At just 68 percent from the free throw line as a team this season, the Spartans leave much to be desired from the charity stripe, and they showed that against Louisville. MSU went 14-for-23 on free throws, good for 60 percent in the game.

They also missed key free throws late that would have helped propel them to a victory, missing three in the final minute. Nick Ward split his two attempts at the line and gave MSU a one point lead. Then freshman guard Foster Loyer–who saw significant minutes late after Cassius Winston fouled out in the second half–missed his shot on a one-and-one attempt. After Louisville tied the game at 67 with a free throw, redshirt senior Kenny Goins had his chance to give the Spartans the lead with eight seconds left, but failed to convert on a one-and-one.

No transition points = Lot of problems

Credit Louisville for scouting well and being prepared to prevent the Spartans from running in transition and getting easy fast break points. MSU loves to push the basketball and look to dominate in that area in every game, like they did against Tennessee Tech earlier in the season, when they scored 34 points in transition. Louisville didn’t give up a single transition bucket to the Spartans. The Cardinals also took care of the basketball, turning it over just 10 times in the game and only allowing 4 Spartan points off of them.

Where’s Quaido?

Prior to this game tipping off, news broke that senior guard Matt McQuaid would be out with a thigh bruise. McQuaid did not even travel with the team, and while watching the game, it was clear that his services were missed.

While McQuaid has had his struggles this season, only 7.3 points per game on 37 percent shooting, he does do all the little things for the Spartans. McQuaid is one of the best players on Tom Izzo has one the defensive end, he’s taking charges, diving for loose balls and consistently matches up with some of the best players on opposing teams.

One of the biggest things McQuaid does is act as a secondary ball handler when Winston heads to the bench. His absence was truly felt when Izzo had to go to freshman Foster Loyer late in the game. Loyer struggled running the offense and had a key turnover late in the second half, missing a wide open Kenny Goins in the corner. Loyer also had trouble guarding McMahon giving him easy baskets and sending him to the free throw line multiple times.

The Spartans are hoping McQuaid gets healthy soon to fill the holes on both the defensive and offensive end of the floor.

Welcome to the B1G Time

With the loss, the Spartans fall to 5-2 on the young season and will not have anything easy ahead of them. Michigan State will begin Big Ten play on Friday, Nov. 30 at Rutgers. That game will tip off at 6 p.m. ET at be broadcasted on BTN.