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What We Learned: Duke 88, Michigan State 81

What can we takeaway from Michigan State’s loss to Duke

NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Duke vs Michigan State Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In a game full of lottery pick talent, #1 Duke and #2 Michigan State gave fans a potential National Championship preview in a back-and-forth contest that saw Grayson Allen drop 37 points to lead the Blue Devils to an 88-81 victory.

Let’s take a look at what we learned from the game.

What We Learned

1. Cassius Winston’s defense is becoming a liability

Michigan State’s ceiling may very well ride on how sophomore Cassius Winston’s elevates his offensive game. After Tuesday night’s game against Duke, how his defense improves throughout the season may end up being more important.

On many occasions against the Blue Devils, Winston looked lost on the defensive end as he at times left shooters wide open behind the arc. One of those came in the final minutes in the game where Gary Trent Jr. was able to hit a wide open 3-pointer to put Duke back up three. Winston also had problems keeping his counterpart Trevon Duval in front of him. Duval consistently blew by Winston for easy layups on his way to 17 points and 10 assists.

For Michigan State to take the next step to get to Duke’s level, it begins with Cassius Winston’s defense.

2. Michigan State still has a turnover problem

Last season Michigan State turned over the ball on over 20% of their possessions. Through two games this season, those turnover problems do not appear to be fixed.

The Spartans followed up a 21 turnover performance on Friday against North Florida with 17 more against the Blue Devils. Cassius Winston and Miles Bridges each had five turnovers to lead the team while Jaren Jackson had four to tally 14 out of 17 MSU turnovers in the game.

Michigan State could have and probably should have beaten Duke...if they took care of the ball. The Spartans consistently beat themselves by killing momentum on their scoring runs by turning the ball over for an easy Duke basket on the other end.

For Michigan State to end up in San Antonio in early April, they will need to pay more attention on taking care of the ball.

3. Michigan State got dominated on the boards...and it won't happen again this season

You may never....ever see a Tom Izzo team get dominated on the glass like the Spartans did against Duke. In total, the Blue Devils outrebounded Michigan State 46-35 with 25 of them coming on the offensive end. This is compared to just 11 offensive boards by the Spartans.

“I'm embarrassed that a team would get 25 offensive rebounds against us,” said Izzo after the game.

This was in-part to the size of Duke. The Blue Devils are most likely one of just three or four teams in the country that can match up size wise with Michigan State. 6-10 Wendell Carter Jr. led Duke with 12 rebounds while 6-10 Javin DeLaurier also added seven.

Purdue may be the only team in the Big Ten that could give the Spartans any fits on the boards the rest of the year. If I had to put my money on it, Michigan State will not get out rebounded again this season, and especially won't give up 25 offensive rebounds in a game.


This was in no way a crushing loss for Michigan State. The Spartans are still one of the best teams in the country, however Duke is on a whole different level. The Spartans will not play another team that even compares to the length and athletic ability that the Blue Devils have. The difference from last year’s loss in the Champions Classic against Kentucky to this year’s is that Michigan State does not have any questions that need to be answered. Instead, the Spartans have some cleaning up to do to be a more fundamentally crisp team.