Michigan State men's basketball traveled to South Bend, Ind. on Wednesday night for a matchup with Notre Dame in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
From the early-goings, it was pretty clear that MSU was still recovering from its recent West Coast trip as Tom Izzo's club fell behind by 22 points through the first 18 minutes of the game.
The Spartans cut their deficit to 54-40 with about nine minutes left in the game, but the Irish responded with a 9-0 run to for their largest lead of the night, and that ended any chance of a comeback for MSU.
Michigan State ended up falling by the final score of 70-52. Here's five things that stood out from a disappointing night for the Spartans:
1.) Tom Izzo's tired Spartans
Michigan State just played three games in four days on the West Coast, and had to hit the road again on two days rest to travel to Notre Dame. Making matters worse, the Spartans were missing two of their top six players during that West Coast trip, and tonight, which meant a heavier load for everyone to carry.
I don't bring that up to excuse tonight's performance. That's just the reality of the situation. Tom Izzo's club was sluggish from the opening tip, and looked down right tired midway through the first half.
Michigan State shot just 39 percent from the floor for the game, including 4-of-12 from three-point range. Meanwhile, Notre Dame enjoyed open shots and a lot of look near the basket to shoot 50 percent from the floor and 42 percent from long range.
2.) Pierre Brooks defensive struggles draw Izzo's ire
Izzo wasn't happy with anything that he saw on Wednesday night, but he chose to send a message with sophomore wing Pierre Brooks
Brooks started the game, as he had in each of the previous three with both Hall and Akins unavailable. However, Brooks went 0-for-2 from the field and was beaten or out of place repeatedly on defense, which led to the sophomore's benching to begin the second half.
Brooks would return to the game about five minutes into the final frame but his defensive woes continued. The sophomore had a bit of a breakout in the Phil Knight Invitational, scoring a career-high 15 points twice. However, until he improves defensively, Izzo won't trust to have him out there.
3.) A.J. Hoggard's competitiveness shines through
By no means did A.J. Hoggard have a great game, but when the Spartans went on that run to cut their deficit to 14 in the second half, it was the point guard who led the way.
The junior finished his night with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting, and added three rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
Hoggard is the emotional heart of this team, and even that was a little lacking tonight. With that said, we saw his competitiveness shine through in that stretch and its something for him to build on after a bit of an up-and-down start to his junior season.
4.) MSU needs Malik Hall, Jaden Akins back ASAP
This is a pretty obvious "takeaway", but it was also pretty obvious tonight how much Michigan State missed the talent and depth that those two players provide.
We know that Hall is still going to be out for another couple weeks, maybe all the way up until Christmas. Akins, meanwhile, is a little more day-to-day. Izzo said he wants to see the sophomore guard participate in three consecutive practices before he's ready to insert him back into the lineup.
We've seen this Michigan State team play some pretty darn good basketball when they've been fully healthy, but foot injuries are a tricky business to deal with in-season. That has me concerned about the Spartans when they get into Big Ten play.
5.) Big Ten opener around the corner
Michigan State just needs to get back to East Lansing and stay there for a while, and that's what they'll get to do for most of the month of December.
The Spartans will get three days rest before opening Big Ten play by hosting Northwestern. Then MSU will hit the road again three days later to play at Penn State, before returning home to play Brown, Oakland and Buffalo with plenty of rest time in-between.
Michigan State has gotten through the brutal portion of their non-conference slate, and now its time to rest up, re-cooperate, recover and go forward, hopefully, with a fully-healthy basketball squad.