No. 4 Michigan State shrugs off loss, focuses on Rutgers

No. 4 Michigan State shrugs off loss, focuses on Rutgers

09 Jan, 2018

 

Tom Izzo isn't concerned about his team's confidence after its worst performance of the season.

Michigan State lost its No. 1 ranking and had its 14-game winning streak snapped by getting blown out by unranked Ohio State 80-64 on Sunday.

The Spartans dropped to No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll and will try to bounce back against Rutgers at the Breslin Center on Wednesday. Michigan State struggled with the Scarlet Knights on the road Dec. 5 before pulling away to a 62-52 victory.

"It's not something that I'm worried about at all because we played in 17 games," said Izzo, the team's longtime coach. "I'd say we played 15 of them pretty well, pretty solid in what we wanted to get done. Did not think we played great at Rutgers and we did not play great (Sunday)."

The Spartans (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) led the nation in field-goal percentage offense and defense entering the game. They shot 39 percent (23 of 59) and Ohio State connected on 52.5 percent (31 of 59) of its shots.

A 12-0 Buckeyes outburst at the end of the first half put them in control.

"It was a complete breakdown," Izzo said. "We didn't play very well in the first half, they didn't play great in the first half. It's a tie game and then everything exploded in the last minute and a half."

Michigan State's losses have come on a neutral court (Duke) and on the road. It has been unbeatable at home, winning each time by double digits. But the Spartans expect much tougher challenges the rest of the way.

"This is the way it's like in the Big Ten," Izzo said. "The worst team you play in the Big Ten is a much tougher game than some of the better teams you play in the non-conference (season). It's just because of the facilities and crowds and everything else."

The loss dropped the Spartans a game behind Ohio State and Purdue in the Big Ten. The matchup with Rutgers begins a three-game stretch of home games for the Spartans. They play rival Michigan on Saturday and Indiana on Jan. 19.

The Scarlet Knights (11-6, 1-3) ended a three-game losing streak and secured their first conference victory by edging Wisconsin 64-60 on Friday. Junior guard Corey Sanders led the way with 23 points.

Turnovers were also a big component, as Rutgers forced 14 and committed just six.

"I just thought we had relentless effort," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell asid. "Everyone came into the game and gave us some great stuff. We were able to move them side to side.

"We made some timely plays down the stretch and every guy up here made a big rebound and made a big jump shot. So it was a great team win. Everyone that checked into the game was locked in and ready to play."

They'll need a similar effort to stick close to the Spartans.

"We're a program in progress that's plugging away," Pikiell said. "We have good things going on. We had seven guys with 3.0's and four guys on the Dean's list. We're building a new practice facility. This program is going to be good and they have to stay the course.

"(Friday) was a good win. We have a difficult task at Michigan State, who's a good team, and we will be well prepared and go there and play."