Spartans Stop The Citadel Short of a Major Upset and Pull Away Late for the 69-56 Win

Jonathan Schopp

It was a small arena with a big atmosphere in South Carolina.  Photo Courtesy of Jon Schopp.
It was a small arena with a big atmosphere in South Carolina. Photo Courtesy of Jon Schopp.

McAlister Fieldhouse

Charleston, South Carolina

 

The Spartans stepped into one of the most unique schools and campuses in the country, and were quickly greeted by a fired up and intense group of Citadel Cadets. “It was crazy in here,” Jr. G Kalin Lucas said. MSU was well represented by the “Low Country Izzone,” filling more than half the McAlister Field House seats here in Charleston with the green and white of the Spartan Nation. The intensity of the environment seemed to catch the Spartans a bit off guard, and made for a very tight 1st half. “It was a great atmosphere to play in,” So. F Draymond Green told Spartan Nation.

The Citadel got off to a hot start hitting successive 3’s out of the gate, and even jumped out to an early lead, which only further electrified the Bulldogs’ faithful. The Spartans seemed to press at times in the 1st half, while the Bulldogs stayed loose for the entire opening 20. It’s not that the Spartans didn’t match the intensity of the Bulldogs, it’s that they couldn’t match the intensity of the rabid Cadets. That might not have been possible.

They say that 3-pointers make for upsets, and the Bulldogs tested that idea tonight. The Citadel went 8-11 from behind the arc in the 1st half, giving them more than a shooter’s chance, and trailing by only 4 (40-36) at the half. The Bulldogs went 12-20 for the night, again giving rise to questions about MSU’s 3-point defense. Some in the Spartan Nation might again question whether there’s a systemic weakness in MSU’s defensive schemes that makes more them susceptible to the 3-ball.

Half way through the 2nd half, the Bulldogs were still hanging around. But as the clock dropped below the 10 minute mark, the Spartans’ experience, athleticism, and raw talent began to shutdown The Citadel. Those 3s that were flowing so well early on suddenly felt a bit tighter in the last couple minutes. “We attacked pretty good in the 1st, but they did a good job of adjusting and closing down open lanes in the 2nd,” Citadel G Cameron Wells told Spartan Nation.

Ultimately, the Spartans pulled one out that they were in legitimate danger of losing. The Bulldogs came to play, acted like they belonged, and didn’t stop thinking they might pull off a monster upset until the final few minutes. “We had to execute down the stretch…and we did,” Coach Izzo said.

MSU must get more out of Jr. G Durrell Summers, who again struggled tonight. Summers looked tentative, frustrated, confused, and hesitant, all in the same game. The Spartans are still a basketball team in search of their identity, and perhaps no player searching more right now than Summers. Tom Izzo seemed to send a message to Summers late in the game, as the Jr. watched the game’s final minutes from the MSU bench. “He just seemed out of it,” Izzo said.

It was great to see the Green and White make a trip down to the Low Country (the region between Charleston, SC and Jacksonville, FL), but perhaps a second trip to the Carolinas within one week was a bit taxing on the Spartans. MSU looked a bit road weary early, but did what they had to do in the second half to avoid an ugly slip-up. “We’ve not been able to get into any kind of sync,” Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo said, frustrated about his team’s lack of flow and consistency.

Make no mistake, this game played a closer than the final score of 69-56. Needless to say, the Spartans have a lot of work to do before getting on a plane for Austin, TX, let alone the Big Ten opener.

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