New York -- Only nine games into the season, it could already be panic time for the Michigan State Spartans basketball team.
Picked by many to get back to a third straight Final Four, the Spartans are now 6-3 and wondering what has happened to a once tough team.
On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Spartans were dominated from start to finish in a 72-58 loss to Syracuse.
"I'd say it's gut-check time for us because that was about as disappointing a performance as we've had in a long time at Michigan State," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I did not feel like we came ready early, at lead inside. We let them dominate us on the boards, we turned into a pretty-boy jump-shooting team instead of the blue-collar, fist-fighting team. We got beat because (Syracuse) played a lot harder, played a lot more physical and played a lot better."
Michigan State gave up 42 points in the paint and were manhandled by Syracuse's Rick Jackson, who scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
What was even worse was the fact that Syracuse made 15 field goals in the first half and 13 of them were either slam dunks or layups.
"Jackson took it right at us every time and we didn't take it at them," Izzo said. "I wasn't thrilled with the officiating and then agreed with them and thought it was right because the aggressive team gets the advantage. I didn't think we got some calls inside, but taking it up like a sissy, I can understand why. They took it up like men."
Much of Izzo's ire was directed at forward Delvon Roe, who picked up four fouls trying to guard Jackson.
"I don't know if Delvon is frustrated, but Tom's frustrated with Delvon," Izzo said after the game. "Their guy took it at him. One guy went up tough and one guy didn't. So Delvon has got to grow up. I was not pleased with his play. It's not very often I'm calling out players, but our inside guys need a lot of work. We are just not very tough in there and that has been a trademark of our team and our program and we'll get it back."
The lack of toughness was evident early in the game. Syracuse jumped to a 38-29 lead at halftime with the benefit of 13 slam dunks or layups. The Orange only had 15 field goals for the entire half.
The Spartans didn't fare much better on the offensive end, turning the ball over 17 times against the 2-3 zone defense of Syracuse.
But considering all of their problems, the Spartans still had a shot in the second half.
Michigan State closed it to 48-46 early in the second half after a three-point play by Derrick Nix with 13:12 to play in the game.
But Syracuse quickly took control again, going on a 9-1 run to push the lead back to 56-47 with 8:55 left in the game and Michigan State never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Scoop Jardine had 19 points to lead Syracuse (9-0) while Kris Joseph added 14 points.
Durrell Summers was Michigan State's only consistent threat on offense, scoring 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting.
Can the Spartans bounce back? Sure. And the answer is simple if you ask Draymond Green.
"We need to go back to old school and have got to get tough," said Green, who added his team played like 'a bunch of girls.' "We haven't played tough as a team and that is killing us. That's what our identity used to be and that won us games."
The Spartans will get their first chance on Saturday when the head to the Palace to play Oakland.