No. 16 MSU looks to get back on track vs. Michigan
This hasn’t been a good week for Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.
His close friend, Mark Dantonio, abruptly resigned Tuesday as the school’s longtime football coach amid allegations of NCAA violations. Izzo’s 16th-ranked team has dropped two straight, most recently a 75-70 home loss to Penn State on Tuesday. And his players are getting roasted on social media.
Izzo’s club enters a stretch in which it plays five of seven games on the road, beginning with rival Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon.
Izzo acknowledged he cried when learning of Dantonio’s departure.
“Nobody’s done what he’s done here in football, and I’ve been here through 37 years of it,” Izzo said.
The Spartans (16-7, 8-4) had been in first place in the contentious Big Ten until losses to Wisconsin and the Nittany Lions. Michigan State is in danger of sliding out of the Top 25 if it loses to the Wolverines.
Izzo pointed to 15 turnovers and missed opportunities as the reasons for the home loss to Penn State.
“We have a lot of games left,” he said. “I’m just disappointed that we go over things in the scouting report, and we don’t have to go over anything on the scouting report to miss layups and turn the ball over.”
Point guard Cassius Winston scored 25 points against Penn State, but none of his teammates reached double digits in scoring. Winston had 23 points in a 64-63 loss to the Badgers on Saturday, but only one other Spartan had more than seven points.
The team’s top frontcourt player, Xavier Tillman, shot 3 for 15 from the field against Wisconsin and attempted only five shots against Penn State.
“For me personally, a lesson from this game is to be more of a threat on the offensive end,” Tillman said. “I played 36 minutes; I have to put up more shot attempts. … I have to do more on offense to relieve Cassius of some of the pressure.”
Izzo said he wants fans to give him more grief instead of taking shots at his players.
“If there’s any Michigan State people out there who are abusing my players on that freaking Twitter, I’m sick of it, OK?” Izzo said. “Some of the stuff the guys have put in front of me the last couple of days; I mean we’re still 16-7, we’re not 5-20.”
Winston scored 32 points and Tillman 20 in the first meeting this season between the in-state schools, an 87-69 Spartans win on Jan. 5.
The Wolverines (13-9, 4-7) head into the rematch desperate for a win. They have dropped five of their past seven games, including a 61-58 home decision Tuesday to their other major rival, Ohio State. Michigan shot just 33 percent from the field.
“It doesn’t feel good at all,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “It’s going to be hard to sleep not just for myself, but all the players, staff, and I’m sure a lot of the Michigan fans because I know there are a ton of folks that left this building really upset with the outcome.”
The game-changing play came in the final minute, when point guard Zavier Simpson was called for a Flagrant One foul for grabbing and tearing Kyle Young’s jersey while Young was fouling him.
The Wolverines were down by a point at the time. Simpson made his free throws, but so did Young, and the Buckeyes got possession. They hit two more free throws, and Michigan came up empty in its last possession.
“It’s a tough one to swallow, I swear. Like all the losses,” Howard said. “This one hurts a lot. It was a very hard-fought game.”
–Field Level Media