Penn State Hands MSU Second Big Ten Loss

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02 February 2008
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA

Hondo’s wireless internet card wasn’t working in Happy Valley so I was charged with writing the game analysis. Let me first start by saying I really like this MSU team. They are talented, they play hard and they play for one another. I have come to the conclusion that they play tight because they are afraid to make a mistake. I think our kids play down to the level of their competition because they are tentative and cannot relax. This MSU basketball team is not flowing because they are constantly looking over their shoulders.

I am not an insider with the Spartan basketball program, but I think I have a pretty good flavor for what is going on. There is a ton of potential with this team, but when your senior All American has two points at half time, something isn’t right. This Penn State team plays hard and they give 100% effort all the time. They just aren’t that good. They have no business playing an MSU team to a halftime lead, let alone beating them down the stretch. They played hard and they deserved the win. I worry about MSU only because our wounds are primarily self-inflicted and they are psychological.

The officiating was awful on both ends of the floor. The bad calls cancelled one another out. Our big men couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. It was another ugly game and the PSU faithful got into the game early and stayed raucous until the buzzer sounded. Michigan State looked for a break all evening and never caught one. The road is never a friendly place to play, but Penn State should be a game that goes into the win column annually. These 2008 Spartans are not making it easy on themselves.

As Drew Neitzel’s season goes, this MSU team will go. Neitzel cannot have performances with six total points with less than two minutes in a game and expect his team to win. The pressure is immense when your team is ranked in the top ten and you’re a preseason All American. I cannot imagine the pressure and I would never welcome it. I admire those that carry it. I really admire those that carry it well.

The loss at Iowa was horrible. It was MSU’s “mulligan” for the season. The Penn State loss virtually insures that MSU will not win the Big Ten Championship and a Midwest NCAA seeding that takes them through Detroit is not likely. This Penn State game hurt on so many levels. It hurts because our kids don’t look like they are having fun. It hurts because our star players cannot get seem to get in sync with one another. It hurts because the talent level on this team far exceeds any other team in the Big Ten. It hurts because we just gifted Bo Ryan another Big Ten championship with a fraction of MSU’s talent.

I rarely question coaching decisions with our basketball team, but today I question quite a few things. I cannot figure out why Kalin Lucas saw the bench when MSU was trying to make their run and seize control of the game. There was not a single Nittany Lion that could check Lucas. He was in the lane at will. He is the best basketball player on this MSU team at this point in the season. I would have had him dribble penetrate until the old proverbial cows came home. Kalin Lucas could have scored 30 points in this game and carried MSU to a win. Sorry, MSU fans the truth hurts. Our best basketball player at this juncture in the season is a true freshman and he is not on the court enough. It cost MSU the game today.

The question now is quite simple. Will MSU get their act together and go beat a formidable road opponent in the conference or will they settle for a third or fourth place finish in the Big Ten? Wherever they finish, I will be happy if they play Spartan basketball and start having fun again.