Spartans sloppy but dominant in 71-56 victory at Penn State
Michigan State has gotten to the point that it can win by double-digits on the road, set a school record, without two key players, and Tom Izzo is still grumbling about the performance and his belief that the Spartans had better not buy the hype.
Michigan State’s wire-to-wire control of Penn State in a 71-56 victory in Happy Valley lifted the No. 6-ranked Spartans (15-2) to a 6-0 record in Big Ten play and an 18th straight win in conference play, dating back to last year. That ties a school record. But Izzo doesn’t care.
“It doesn’t turn me on at all,” Izzo said of the school record. “I’m disappointed how we played. That was like a playoff football game. I thought they (Penn State) physical and I didn’t think we responded very well. We had our moments when we were pretty good. The pressure (defense) bothered us.”
The Spartans had 17 turnovers - their most since 17 in a loss at Louisville on Nov. 27.
“We just got a lead on them and made some shots and they missed some shots I thought they could have made,” Izzo said. “The turnovers were a joke.”
The Spartans were without two key wings, and had an uncharacteristically spotty performance from Cassius Winston, but rode hot second-half shooting from Matt McQuaid and rebounding dominance for the victory.
McQuaid didn’t shoot in the first half, but nailed four 3-pointers in the second half while scoring 15 points for the Spartans. His offense helped make up for the absence of Joshua Langford, who missed a fourth straight game with an ankle injury. Langford’s usual replacement, Kyle Ahrens, missed the game with a back injury.
Freshman Aaron Henry started for the first time in his career. He had seven points, two rebounds, two assists and one turnover.
Lamar Stevens scored 20 points for Penn State (7-10, 0-6), but he needed 18 shots to do it (8-of-18).
Nick Ward led Michigan State with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
WARD STOOD TALL IN 1H
Ward had a loud start, being just one rebound shy of a double-double in the first half. But he collected his second and third fouls within the first :90 seconds of the second half, which earned him a trip to the bench.
Winston, meanwhile, was whistled for his third foul late in the first half. This caused Winston to shy away from his usual penetration game, and led directly to some sloppy pass attempts. Winston finished with seven turnovers, six assists and 11 points. He was 3-of-7 from the field.
“I hate to say it but I’ve given him credit for the whole season but I told Cash that was one of the worst games I’ve seen him play,” Izzo said. “Cassius deserves a hall pass because he’s been so, so good, but he was pedestrian today. He was just another guy.
“Maybe we’re all talking about how good we are. We’re not that good. And if he doesn’t play well, we’re not very good at all.
“Nick was pretty good early, then he got in foul trouble. McQuaid was pretty good late.”
Izzo gave the team two days without practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He felt the team lacked energy on Tuesday night against Purdue and needed an extra day of rest to prepare for the first of a five-game stretch in which the Spartans must play four games on the road.
“We’ve been so worried about how much we practice because we’ve got hurt, and what we do,” Izzo said. “So we rested ‘em, and I think they continued that rest right through this weekend.”
Ward’s excellent first half helped Michigan State jump out to a 30-16 lead. He scored on a face-up 17-footer, a shot in the post on a third-chance opportunity, and two transition buckets in the first half.
Michigan State led 40-24 at halftime, but played differently in the second half when he played more carefully and Ward had to sit.
Penn State cut the lead to 43-33 with 13:40 to go, but that’s when McQuaid caught fire.
The senior wing nailed his first 3-pointer from the right wing off a hand-off to answer Penn State’s surge and rebuild the lead to 46-33.
On MSU’s next possession, Izzo called a play to go to McQuaid off a baseline in-bound play. McQuaid set up his defender away from the ball, received a hand-off and drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing, making it 49-33 with 13:00 left.
McQuaid’s two 3-pointers were devastating to Penn State’s comeback hopes.
McQuaid’s third 3-pointer extended the lead to 19 at 63-42.
With Langford and Ahrens out, McQuaid played 33 minutes - his most in a 40-minute game this season.
“We didn’t play very good,” Izzo said. “Some of it is because we didn’t get Nick the ball enough because some of those young wings have a long way to go.”
Michigan State played a three-minute stretch in the first half with an all-freshman backcourt of Henry, Gabe Brown and Foster Loyer.
MSU’s bench out-scored Penn State 15-0. Sophomore big man Xavier Tillman had five points and seven rebounds.
“Xavier (Tillman) played okay,” Izzo said. “Gabe came in and played okay. Foster, there were a couple of things he did.”
Loyer scored seven points on third-of-six shooting.
Loyer’s 3-pointer from the right wing gave Michigan State a 20-10 lead in the first half. His catch-and-shoot jumper after a time out gave Michigan State a 40-24 lead with :15 seconds to go in the first half.
Michigan State out-rebounded Penn State, 41-28.
“We had stretches when we were really good, but let’s not kid anybody,” Izzo said. “Everybody is annointing us like we are better than last year, but we aren’t even in that league yet. Let’s get that straight.”
He’s trying to get that straight to his players, whether or not it’s true. And it is true, when Langford and Ahrens aren’t available and Winston plays uncomfortably.
“The ball wasn’t moving,” Izzo said. “We looked slow.
“The biggest disappointment was the ball movement and the turnovers.
“The bright spots were that we rebounded the ball very, very well. I thought our bigs played physical, and our guards played soft.
“There were some good things. But there were enough bad things that you can’t feel good about this when you know what the next four games are like.”
That trek resumes on Thursday at Nebraska (12-4, 2-3 in the Big Ten).