EAST LANSING — For the first time since Jan. 8, Michigan State was able to take the court for a basketball game. But the Spartans did not finish on the favorable side of the scoreboard in their return to action, falling to Rutgers 67-37 in Piscataway.
The loss was the Spartans’ first against Rutgers in program history.
“I put this on me, from a leadership standpoint and my role on the team,” junior forward Aaron Henry said. “It starts with me. Tonight we didn’t compete, and I’ll take responsibility for that.”
After a slow start to the game, Michigan State would trail by only six at halftime. But a season-high 21 turnovers, 13 of which came in the second half, allowed Rutgers to take a commanding lead early in the second half. The Scarlet Knights would cruise to victory from there, outscoring the Spartans by 24 in the second half.
“There’s no excuse for the turnovers,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said.
Michigan State previously defeated the Scarlet Knights 68-45 this season on Jan. 5 in East Lansing.
Michigan State shot just 29% from the field on Thursday, the Spartans’ lowest mark of the season since shooting 25% at Minnesota on Dec. 28. Henry led the Spartans in scoring with seven points while Joey Hauser added six points.
“Practices were fine, we went hard. But we have to have carry over,” Henry said. “I’m sure we will find our way.”
As expected after not competing for nearly three weeks, the Spartans faced some early rust in the contest, as Rutgers opened the game on a 10-0 run to force a timeout from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo with 16:41 to go in the first half.
Michigan State’s struggles would continue well into the first half. Rutgers opened the game leading 15-0 until Marcus Bingham Jr. gave the Spartans their first points of the game with a turnaround jumper with 14 minutes remaining in the half.
The Spartans would eventually gain some momentum, sustaining a 7-0 run capped off by a deep Foster Loyer 3-pointer to cut the lead to 17-9 with 8:21 left in the first half. Rutgers would respond with a jumper from Ron Harper Jr. and a 3-pointer from Jacob Young to grow the lead to 22-9.
Continuing to look more comfortable in game action, Michigan State would go on another run, this time a 10-0 run, to trim Rutgers’ lead to 22-19 with 3:20 remaining in the half. The run was finished off by a hook shot from Henry for his first points of the game.
A basket from McConnell would stop the bleeding for the Scarlet Knights, and after a free throw from Henry, Geo Baker would hit a two-point jumper to give Rutgers a 26-20 halftime lead.
“I thought we started out like I hoped we would not,” Izzo said. “I give us a lot of credit, we fought back.”
Bingham Jr.’s four points would lead the Spartans at the half, as the team only shot 25% in the game’s first 20 minutes. Eight first-half turnovers also hampered Michigan State, but the Spartans were able to force eight turnovers of their own and lead in rebounding by a margin of 20-19 to keep the game close at the half.
“Marcus (Bingham Jr.) in the first half was our best player,” Izzo said. “He’s starting to do some things well.”
Fueled by four early second-half turnovers from Michigan State, Rutgers would open the second half on an 11-2 run to lead 37-22 with 15:46 remaining in the game.
Scarlet Knights’ center Myles Johnson opened the half with five points, and Rutgers was afforded numerous second-chance opportunities off of six offensive rebounds early in the half.
Rutgers continued to expand its lead into the second half, as Michigan State turnovers continued to pile up and the Scarlet Knights’ lead grew to 42-26 with 11:13 to go in the game. Michigan State was only able to manage three made field goals through the first 10 minutes of the second half.
An emphatic dunk underneath from Johnson gave Rutgers a 53-30 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the game, and Rutgers would cruise to the finish line for the remainder of the game to defeat Michigan State by a final score of 67-37.
“We weren’t great defensively, but we weren’t bad,” Izzo said. “Considering all the layups they got off turnovers.”
Michigan State was outscored by Rutgers 41-17 in the second half, as the Spartans committed 13 costly turnovers and gave up nine offensive rebounds during the half.
For the entire game, Rutgers scored 33 points off of Michigan State turnovers and had 13 second-chance points.
“Attention to detail, following the scouting report,” Henry said on how to limit turnovers. “The ball was stagnant a lot.”
With the loss, Michigan State falls to 8-5 overall and 2-5 in Big Ten play. Rutgers improved to 9-6 overall and 5-6 in conference play with the win.
“It’s not going to get any easier from here,” Henry said.
Michigan State will now turn its attention to facing the No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday.
Follow Luke Sloan on Twitter @LukeSloan_7.