Michigan State Spartanâ€™s Season of Expectations Comes Crashing Down As They Fall Short of Goals in New York City!
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
The Michigan State Spartans were not only predicted to win the NCAA East in the 2014 tournament by the President, but by the shoe shine boy, the homeless and just about everyone in between. They were Americaâ€™s darlings. Emphasis on were. Life does not always happen the way it is predicted.
Instead they finish the year 29-8, the winners of the Big Ten tournament and attenders of the Elite Eight. They fell tonight here in Gotham 60-54. There is an old adage that says the numbers never lie, but in this case they might.
The UCONN Huskies finished the game scoring only 60 points while shooting an abysmal 34% and 22% from the three. The Spartans even won the rebounding battle, but it wasnâ€™t enough. On the biggest night of every Spartan players career, they had nothing left.
Tom Izzo said it best, â€œWe looked like we were walking in quicksand therefore a little while.â€ He went on to add, â€œWe came back and did a lot of good things. Went on a big run of our own, but the biggest key to the whole day is we turned the ball over. I think in the first half 12 of their 21 points were on turnovers or second shots. And that doesn't happen to us that often. And then in the second half to have a nine point lead and we just did not execute. And give them credit, they did. And there was some close calls and we were out of it.â€
Izzo was right. The Spartans had 16 turnovers to the Huskies eight and it killed them. They were lackadaisical with the ball at times and defeated themselves. The collective theme in the locker room was respect for the Huskies but depression that they played their worst and were sent home by a group of players they were better than.
Gary Harris is a sure fired NBA first round pick next season and while not having declared his intention to leave early is expected to go. He said of the turnovers that, â€œIt's tough, especially in a game like this. Those turnovers definitely cost us. We just have to be better from top to bottom, and we just can't let those things happen.â€
Adreian Payne added about the turnovers that, â€œEvery possession counted and we didn't capitalize on them.â€
Izzo went on to add, â€œSo to be honest with you, we got what we deserved all year long. This team battled and did everything they could do, and unfortunately we did not bring our "A" game today, and we got what we deserved today. I tried to tell these guys that, when you get to the Tournament, you got to bring it every second. And today Connecticut did and we just kind of weren't as good as we have been. But we have had a hell of a year and I'm going to congratulate them and also congratulate us on an incredible year under the circumstances.â€
As the game went on it was baffling as the Spartans once again fell in love with the three. Nearly abandoning the paint and the inside out game that helped them, they kept jacking up threes. Payne tried to explain, but to no avail in my opinion stating, â€œThey definitely tried to force me out and to take jump shots. It was just, they did a great job in the post of sending backside help. So it was kind of hard to get the ball down low.â€
The Spartans shot 11-29 (37%) from range, but as we have harped on all year at Spartan Nation that comes with a big cost. When you donâ€™t drive you donâ€™t get fouls. You can cry and scream about the foul differential, but credit UCONN who went at MSU while the Spartans cared to play jack a three. The Spartans essentially this season at many times embodied what the Wolverines used to do while clamoring for more foul calls.
It was laborious as Izzo tried to comfort himself while talking. â€œI got a lot of my friends here and some of them are now in TV or media, and I said they always talk about turnovers, whether it's a Super Bowl or what the sport is, and I just, I can't get over these stats. We didn't shoot great either, 40 percent, 37, 87, but they shot 34 and 22, got outrebounded; you should win 99.9 percent of those games. And we lost easy. And it was because of turnovers and "turnovers for touchdowns" as I call them. Give them credit, they got to the line a lot. It's been a problem, and they made 21 22. You got to give them a lot of credit. They made a lot of big free throws.â€
The decision by Izzo to continue to let his team jack threes was not the only to come into question. Let there be no doubt that Keith Appling is an amazing young man who has done so much for this program. Just not lately as he is STILL INJURED. UCONN stayed off of him, begging him to shoot. He had five fouls, two assists, four turnovers and ZERO rebounds. Yes he is a defensive juggernaut, but yesterday MSU needed more. Was that more Travis Trice?
Walk on senior Dan Chapman had more points that Appling, three and played less than one minute to Applingâ€™s 28. While Appling struggled, you felt for him. It wasnâ€™t that he canâ€™t play because of talent, he simply was fighting like a warrior without any gas left.
I had asked Izzo PRIOR to the Big Ten tournament if at some time he would have to give more minutes to Trice. You may remember his answer got picked up nationally when he declared he would, but after the Big Ten tournament.
After the game Izzo was asked about not playing Trice more. â€œWell, I did Trav in there but they were really pressuring him and he struggled in that respect. And then I wanted to play them both together, and we weren't rebounding the ball. Branden really struggled today. And that made a little bit of a difference, because just I couldn't put in Kenny as much because defensively there was some issues. Keith got us in our offense a little bit better, but I probably would have liked to have played Trav a little more with Keith, and maybe that's something.â€
He went on to say, â€œBut I'm not going to second guess those things when we had 16 of the most out of body turnovers known to mankind, to be honest. And I give them credit on the ones they caused, but I mean, you know, we get two at the end, Dawson's got the ball, and it just gets thrown away we're down two with a minute, two minutes left. We hold them twice and they get an offensive rebound once; we get a rebound and we turn it over. I mean, you're just not going to win games like that. I learned that every year.â€
Izzo thought the loss was more about the play of the team than strategy adding, â€œWe took some bad shoots, too. I mean, nobody take anything away from them, but we did not play very well for how we play. Bad shots, out of body turnovers, offensive rebounds that they got, and that's how they got that big lead. I thought he did a great job of having his team ready, and I did a poor job of having mine ready.â€
The Spartans had ONLY six points in the paint. They have asked all year for games to be allowed to be played physically. They got it both nights here in Gotham. They didnâ€™t like the results last night because they stayed away from the paint. The MSU Spartans in a physical game only had six points in the paint.
Izzo said of that, â€œI thought that was the most physical game. I mean, Payne, it was, it was physical. Then we just chose that because they did a good job doubling, too, and that's why I would have liked to have played Kaminski a little bit more, because then they double and we got a three point shooter out there. But he struggles to guard certain people. And Daniels I didn't need him going off.â€
To his credit Izzo was just blunt. â€œI don't feel as bad as I should because I think we got what we deserved today. I think for the most part throughout this whole year we did. And that meant a lot of wins. 29 wins with a lot of adverse circumstances.â€
In the end the Spartans were reduced to looking for answers and there were none. Credit UCONN, but MSU should be going to Dallas and they arenâ€™t
Izzo added, â€œI think that we had a weird year, and then we had a little bit of a different playing until Sunday in the Big 10 Tournament and then traveling out West and you know, it is what it is. But I don't think that's any excuse why you turn the ball over like we did. A guy grabbing it out of our hands. We just didn't seem as mentally into the game, and you got to be. And I mean, it's not easy to do that. I understand the reasons why.â€
He added, â€œBut those things, so they got two hours on us, big deal. It is hard on those late nights. It was really hard because we didn't get back until like 1:30 in the morning. But hey, they got back at 11:30, big deal. Two hours. No big deal.â€
Izzo finished with a simple and direct explanation as to why he called a timeout with six seconds left. â€œThe reason I called timeout with six seconds left, it wasn't so that the UCONN fans could really enjoy it a little longer. I just told our underclassmen and that, that I didn't think we had a couple stretches where we didn't bring it, but we did and I don't want to don't trademark the line, but out of body experiences, a couple times I came out of the huddle and I was shaking my head, like I haven't seen this before. Sometimes that happens with pressure. Sometimes it happens with fatigue, and I just wanted our team to capture the moment and learn from it, so next year we can be better at what we do.â€
UCONN coach Kevin Ollie was as direct as Izzo. â€œMy coaching staff came up with a great design out there and the defense was amazing. It was great to get off to a great start, and we wanted to fight. We wanted to throw the first punch and I think we did that.â€
So the season ends. No reason for shame, they will hang a banner for the Big Ten Tournament title, but this team wanted more. To a man they said before the year this team had to get to Dallas or bust. Final Four or it wasnâ€™t a success. CLICK HERE TO REMEMBER.
Izzo himself declared this team as one of three he has had that he felt was the favorite to win it all. Going back to their expectations that they set it ends as a bust. Some years you want to just make the dance, some years you expect to do more. They expected it, they wanted and so did the fans. They didnâ€™t reach that goal. The season will be judged by that. That is what makes it so tough.
There is NOTHING to be ashamed of with the people on this team. It is how it ended that stings, not with a loss, but where the loss came. The better team didnâ€™t win today. They are headed back to East Lansing and that cuts like a knife.