Tom Izzoâ€™s Cagers Firmly on NCAA Bubble After â€œUnexcusableâ€ Loss to Illinois at Home 59-54
East Lansing, MI
Several clichÃ©d adages come to mind to describe the Spartan loss today at The Breslin. â€œLacklusterâ€ seems to be the best. Tom Izzo called his teamâ€™s inablitly to hit a free throw, â€œUnexcusable," he added, â€œRidiculousâ€ and also said, â€œIt's utterly unacceptable.â€ The Spartans shot seven of eighteen.
Lackluster, simply defined, means â€˜uninspiredâ€™ and the Spartans certainly looked uninspired today with very few exceptions. In truth, lacking in luster would denote that there was actually a finish to have lost or to ever gain, and, right now, that may not be the case.
With what looked to be a brilliant start with a 10-2 opening, the Spartans seem to show a little spirit with some active ball movement and that legendary Spartan push up the floor, but then the lid clamped down on the bucket. Shots werenâ€™t dropping and Illinois kept Dawson and crew off the boards, especially the offensive boards.
More importantly, the shots just would not go from the line. In the first half alone, the Spartans were 5 of 13 from the charity stripe and continued to hit only 2 of 5 in the second half. Truly vital was the inability to hit two clutch free throws at the end of the game that could have completely changed the outcome.
And thatâ€™s the real storyâ€¦
Despite what appeared to be an uninspired game in front of an uninspiring Breslin crowd, the Spartans still had every chance to win this game at home. Through intermittent, messy ball handling and shot after shot that just would not fall, the Spartans were in the game at the end with a chance to take home the â€˜W.â€™ They just could not find the fortitude to finish the game.
The entire game was a reflection of the micro-games within each possession. Several times throughout the game, the Spartansâ€™ defense held the Illini away from the basket and slightly off-kilter, but within the last five to ten second of the possession would ease up and let them inside for the shot.
Routinely, Illinois was exploiting the weakness between the corner and the block on MSUâ€™s right side. Continuously pushing the ball around until a good matchup or even a mismatch occurred late in the possession. And they did it well and they kept it up the entire game.
Izzo was boiling like a tea kettle in the post-game saying things like, â€œThere's nothing good I can take out of that.â€ Perhaps his strongest comments came when trying to put the game in context over his for sure Hall of Fame career. â€œNot the most disappointed I've been, maddest I've been.â€
Other than, as Coach Izzo alluded to, â€œShooting free throws until their hands blister,â€ it becomes about playing the entire game the way that they have played segments of each game. Coach Izzo noted that â€œYou saw [Trice] check somebody the last five-six minutes of the game; thatâ€™s the way itâ€™s supposed to be all the time.â€
They will need forty minutes to win on the road in Illinois and Ann Arbor, not to mention at home versus Ohio State. And after today, on the road Tuesday at Northwestern will take a better effort. Forty minutes, whistle-to-whistle is what every coach preaches, is what every player has always heard. The Spartans will need to live that credo moving forward if they plan to play in Mid-March.