Takeaways from No. 10 Michigan State’s win against Florida

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Michigan State men’s basketball is now 8-2 after its second road win of the season, this one coming at Florida, winning 63-59. Senior captain Matt McQuaid returned to the floor after missing three games due to a severe thigh bruise. Although the Spartans were healthy and on a two-game winning streak against Big Ten competition, they surprisingly struggled against Florida’s defense and barely managed to win.

Here’s what we can take away from the game:

 

Turnovers

Michigan State will not succeed this season if the turnovers continue to multiply. The Spartans had 11 turnovers in the first half alone. The three juniors, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward, had a combined total of seven.

The Spartans did still lead at the break, 35-27. The Gators shot 29.4 percent in the half, while the Spartans were at a successful 60.9 percent. Michigan State should have been up by far more considering Florida’s offensive struggles, but the turnovers hampered the Spartans’ ability to increase their lead. MSU ended up with 15 turnovers on the day, while Florida got by with nine.

 

Kyle Ahrens

If there was ever a moment in the game when you were certain the Spartans would win the game, it was Kyle Ahrens’ moment. Always playing full of heart, Ahrens picked up a loose ball for a game-sealing dunk with eight seconds left on the clock.

Ahrens scored all seven of his points and each of the Spartans’ last seven in the last 3:03 in the game. The other five points came from a smooth shot from behind the arc and a quick layup. In moments like those, Spartan fans can see why coach Tom Izzo speaks so highly of him. With the increase in his minutes due to McQuaid’s injury, Ahrens has stepped up and done a good job of creating plays on the court.

 

Xavier Tillman

Xavier Tillman has consistently been improving each game throughout the season. He finished the game with 14 points, leading the team in scoring for the first time in his career. He also had nine rebounds during his 28 minutes on the court.

He shot 6-for-7 with his average shooting percentage at 85.7 percent. He collected his career-high of three steals just within the first half alone. He has steadily worked his way to claiming his spot in rebounding, but can he be a consistent scorer?

Playing a bigger chunk of each game as the season goes on, Tillman will be a key instrument for this team to achieve what it is capable of. Last season he averaged 8.7 minutes per game and now he is up to  21.7 minutes. The increase of court time reflects Izzo’s confidence in Tillman’s aggressiveness and athleticism on the court. Shooting 69.4 percent this so far this season, Tillman is making his mark on this Spartan team.

 

Three-point shooting problems?

The Gators played with a quick and scrappy defense that gave the Spartans a run for their money. Florida had seven steals, along with 16 offensive rebounds. Even after halftime, the Spartans still struggled to score like they normally do. Florida outscored the Spartans by four in the second half, 32-28.

A usually dependable shooter, Winston went 0-for-5 from the three-point line. MSU shot 4-for-15 overall from the three-point line. Still managing to pull out the win, the three-point shooting doesn’t seem too much of a problem, but heading into to some tough competition in January, MSU will need to step it up. The Spartans shot 25 percent and 31.3 percent in from behind the arc the last two games.