Michigan State fans won’t be rushing to watch the replay of Sunday afternoon’s embarrassing loss at Ohio State. It’s a game most Spartans would like to forget. However, it was an indication how a 40-minute perfect storm can ruin your entire season and should improve the Spartans moving forward.
Michigan State’s 80-64 blowout loss at Ohio State was exactly as I said -- a perfect storm. The Buckeyes were extremely impressive and ran away with the game from the 1:50 mark of the first half. The game was tied at the point and from then on the Buckeyes took control, outscoring the Spartans 38-13 across the next 12-plus minutes.
Ohio State finished the game shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from the three-point line. The Buckeyes simply weren’t missing shots, and got an incredible performance from junior forward Keita Bates-Diop. He finished the game with a career-high 32 points and also seven rebounds.
The Spartans’ play didn’t help their cause either. Michigan State committed 12 turnovers, which is below their season average but was still six more than the Buckeyes. Michigan State shot an abysmal 39 percent from the field and an even worse 28 percent from three-point range on 25 attempts. The Spartans looked shell-shocked by the atmosphere in only their second true road game.
It was a perfect storm. A storm that the No. 1 team couldn’t overcome. A storm that most teams would have failed to overcome. But also a storm that should humble this bunch and show them that an entire season of good could go down the drain in a single game if they don’t learn from this experience.
So with that being said, this loss actually could be a good thing for Michigan State. It may be hard to believe for some, but if you truly look at this game you’ll see how this could end up being a good -- possibly great -- thing for Michigan State.
The loss was eye-opening for a team that really hasn’t faced much adversity yet this year. It was the first loss the Spartans endured since the second week of the season, and really the closest game they’ve had in weeks. It was also only the second true road game of the season for Michigan State, and it was a great example of how no game on the road will be easy for a team that has a target on its back.
“I just think for the first time we had to deal with — as (assistant coach) Dwayne Stephens said, ‘Welcome to being good,’” Izzo told reporters after the game. “This is what is gonna happen every night.
“We’ve got to handle things differently because you’re gonna get somebody else’s best shot. I think we got the crowd’s best shot, I think we got their team’s best shot and they deserved what they got and we deserved what we got.”
It’s one thing to be humbled a bit, which is a good thing. But there were actual aspects of the game that Michigan State can learn from too. We finally saw what happens when the Spartans aren’t hitting the three ball like they have all season. Sunday featured the Spartans third worse three-point shooting performance.
When the three-point shot wasn’t going in, you’d think they’d try to feed the bigs down low. That wasn’t working either. Sophomore forward Nick Ward finished the game with only one shot attempt -- it was a miss. He finished the game with three points, which was the same amount turnovers he had.
Freshman phenom Jaren Jackson Jr. also didn’t do enough in the paint. He ended up with 11 points, but he took only five shots from inside the arc. He made three of those shots so if he had taken more shot attempts from inside the paint then maybe it’d be a different story. But let’s not forget he also fouled out with nearly 10 minutes to go in the game so that won’t cut it.
When the shots weren’t going in from deep for truly the first time this year, we saw Michigan State struggle. Give credit to Ohio State for defending the post well and not giving Ward or Jackson a ton of chances to post up, but this is an area that needs to be improved. There’s enough talent and depth in the post to make up for a poor shooting performance, it just needs to be utilized.
The turnovers continue to be an issue. I’ve harped on this from day one, and again we saw it hurt this team in a big game. Just like in their other loss this year against Duke. There’s really not much more that needs to be said here.
This loss knocks Michigan State off the top ranked spot and temporarily out of first place in the Big Ten. I’m not worried about either of those because Ohio State won’t be running the table in the league and neither will Purdue. So this loss won’t kill Michigan State’s chances at winning the Big Ten. What it does do, though, is show there is still room for improvement and is a great example of how a near perfect game by your opponent could be lights out for you.
Imagine if we saw this game in the NCAA Tournament? Just like that your season is over. It happened against Middle Tennessee State two years ago for Michigan State. So when you look at the grand scheme of things, this loss was actually a good thing for Michigan State. Better to have it happen now then in March.
Just because Ohio State went off like they did on Sunday doesn’t mean another opponent won’t do it again later in the regular season or in the big dance. But what this game at least does is prepare Michigan State for that kind of game. Next time around, I don’t expect the Spartans to be completely shell-shocked and anticipate a more resilient performance.
A game like Sunday may just be what the doctor ordered for this extremely talented Michigan State squad. Adversity in January can go a long way for a team trying to play its way into April. We’ll see if they learn and are better from what happened in Columbus.