What a difference a week makes, eh? No, we’re not abandoning ship over here (boat pun, YES!), we’re just smarting a bit from the knock back down to Earth delivered by the Hoosiers of Indiana.
When we last spoke, things were JOYOUS. Finally we had seen the potential of this team when pretty much everyone was able to play together. And then it all fell apart. From the second the game started on Tuesday, something was amiss with our beloved Spartans. They didn’t appear to have the fire or focus that they came out with against Michigan. They looked tired and rattled and more than a few times were incredibly panicked. It wasn’t exactly what Spartan Nation had in mind when envisioning this game. Perhaps what was most disappointing was this because the first game that MSU just couldn’t close. It had become one of the strong points of the season, and pretty much fell apart this game. Additionally, if Indiana could have missed ever from outside, that would have helped too. But, we can’t always get what we want, I guess.
So, the Spartans lost 72-68, but there is no time to be down. Schedule of Doom part II is underway and MSU cannot let this effort get them down. With the next three games being (at) Ohio State, (at) Michigan, and (home) Wisconsin there is no rest for the weary. Perhaps this loss will remind the team that while they have an abundance of talent, it is not the time to be fat and sassy and NOTHING is guaranteed.
Onward to the Boat!
Captain: There was no clearer choice after the Indiana game that Gary Harris. He was one of the only bright spots in a night of bleakness. While he had the benefit of being in a mismatched arrangement with Hulls, he did not hesitate to get as much going on offense as he could. We learned after the game that he had another shoulder incident (CAN SOMEONE PLEASE STOP THAT FROM HAPPENING THANKS), but it didn’t seem to phase him in the least. He finished the game with 19 points and an impressive three steals. His long range game was way off (1-5 from 3), but he was driving to the basket, making scoring chances, and you really couldn’t ask for much more from the freshman. Obviously he missed on an opportunity to tie it at the end with free throws, but Harris was not the reason MSU lost this game. Welcome to the front of the Boat, sir. The future is bright as long as Harris is around.
First Mate: What up, Matt Costello!! I know, I know. It’s a bold choice. But he has made me so happy the past few games that I felt like I had to reward him. There was a movement on Twitter earlier in the year to #freemattcostello. He was freed, but looked pretty awful in his first few games. And then, the emergence of Mr. Costello began! He had a bit of a coming out party (Hello the dunk and the blocks and the SKIPPING) and the trend continued vs. Indiana. In 8 minutes of PT, Costello had 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Solid effort. It also appears that coach Izzo has faith in Costello’s defense as he has been seen on the floor late in games for that reason. Well, done, Matt! And also, please keep skipping because it brings me so much joy.
Second Mate: This honor will be bestowed upon one of the only other bright spots from Tuesday in Mr. Adreian Payne. Payne was a force to be reckoned with, finishing the night with 17 points and 7 rebounds, despite playing much of the game in foul trouble. He also managed to get a foul for hitting Christian Watford’s arm with his face/head region. It was mystifying. He didn’t let the fouls impact his game and if Harris didn’t have the ball, I felt good when Payne was in control. He also continues to be one of the Spartans’ best outside shooting threats (it was so weird to type that) and ended up 3-3 for that game. It’s great to see him have such a strong season (finally) and he has certainly been an asset for the Spartans this year.
Crow’s Nest: I’m going to give this to Derrick Nix and Denzel Valentine. Nix struggled a bit during the first half but became more of an asset once the second half started. He only had 8 points but also had 5 rebounds. When he imposes his will, he’s hard to stop. And I’m not even going to touch the Zeller-nutsgate. Just, no. As for Valentine, he’s been another freshman proving his worth, especially in a game where our starting point guard could not get it together. It’s nice to see things coming together for him and his no-look passes are the stuff of dreams. His turnovers have been severely reduced and we’ve seen Izzo go to him in late game situations. He’ll be a strong PG in the future.
Hammock of Healing (but we’re glad you’re no longer concussed): Trizzle. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty for him. Not in the least. But it was great to see him get some minutes after being out five games with his second concussion of the year. I was surprised we saw him at all, but it’s a good sign for this long stretch and leading into March. Rest up, Trizzle. We want to see you for the rest of the year.
Swab the Deck: It’s hard to kick a guy when he’s down, and especially when he’s been so good the whole year, but it was disappointing to see Keith Appling come out and lay another egg against Indiana. You know that after the first game all he wanted to do was be an asset for his team, but it just was not his night. His stat line is horrific (six points, FOUR turnovers) and missing some key free throws at the end made this an especially difficult game for the captain. I know he’ll turn it around, but it was a disappointing game over all and reminded us of last year when he would panic in tight situations. Keep your head, Keith and you’ll be fine.
PAGING BRANDEN DAWSON! Where are you? Where did you go? 8 points and three turnovers is not going to do it on this team. It’s just not. Stop with the jump shooting. It’s not a good look for you. Drive to the basket. Use all your skills. Every time he touched the ball Tuesday I closed my eyes. Sometimes I worry that all the talk about how good he is really hurts him. Don’t count your NBA money yet, pal. We still need you.
Iceberg: Sorry, Russell. Bundle up.
Honorable Mention: The IZZONE. I cannot tell you how awesome it has been to see the effort of the students this year. I think the past couple of years, the students have gotten fat and sassy too. While it is an expectation for MSU basketball to be good, it is not something we can take for granted. Part of having a good college basketball team is having a great student section, in my opinion, and this year the effort has been absolutely outstanding. I am always proud to be a Michigan State alum, but it is extra awesome to see all the coverage the Izzone has gotten this year. Lining up hours in advance in a blizzard? Awesome. The volume? Awesome. Keep it up. The boys need you.
PS: If we never had to see Oladipo again, I would be fine with that.
Look, we all wanted to win the game Tuesday. It would have been HUGE for the Big Ten title hopes and otherwise. But all is not lost here. I was as frustrated as everyone else, but it’s important to remember that MSU took the number one team in the country to the wire in a game in which nothing was working. That’s big. And, it’s not even close to being over. The train keeps rolling closer to March and everyone needs to stay focused. Hopefully a loss like this will wake everyone up and see that there is always work to be done.
Next Up: The Spartans travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes, Sunday at 4 PM on CBS. Tune in!