The Spartans’ season ended Sunday afternoon after a 60-54 loss to the 7-seed UConn Huskies in the Elite 8. The loss ended the Spartans deep run in the tournament— they finished the season with a 29-9 record. The loss also marked the end of the Spartan careers of seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne (and most likely sophomore Gary Harris).
The game began just like it finished— there was just a lot of excitement within that range. For the first eight minutes of the game, Michigan State scored three points. They were shooting terribly from the field and UConn was knocking down their shots. MSU started rolling soon after, though, and finished the half on a 9-0 run, giving them a 25-21. The Spartans came out of the gates in the second half firing, quickly going up 32-23. Then after that, the team’s offensive and defensive execution evolved into a dumpster fire. The ensuing five minutes consisted of a 12-point run by the Huskies, giving themselves the lead again (spoiler: they would not lose that lead for the entire game). After they took the lead, UConn smelled blood. They quickly went up by ten, and even though the Spartans got it within two to make it 51-49 after Keith Appling’s only points of the day, it wasn’t enough. The real dagger came when UConn had the ball with 30 seconds left, up 53-51. Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier pulled up from three-point range on Keith Appling, who (allegedly) hit Napier’s shoulder on the shot. Appling had fouled out, ending his Michigan State career. Napier hit all three free throws. The game was effectively over.
MSU’s season ended on a very disappointing note. Here’s three reasons why the team lost:
“Live by the three, die by the three”- The entire contest, MSU was jacking up three balls. At the beginning, they couldn’t get them to fall, and consequently, they quickly went down 12-2. Once Payne, Valentine and Harris started to heat up, the Spartans starting steamrolling UConn. Towards the middle of the second half, the three-pointers stopped falling, and MSU stopped winning. They finished the game with an embarrassing 37.9% three-point shooting rate.
TURNOVERS- This is a big one. Michigan State had 16 turnovers compared to UConn’s eight. It’s really hard to win a basketball game when as a team you turn over the ball on 26.1% of possessions. That’s more than one turnover every four possessions. That’s unacceptable.
Inability to get inside- MSU’s biggest advantage in this game was supposed to be the dominant inside play of Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Throughout the whole game, I could count on one hand how many buckets they scored in the paint. That’s not good. It would be one thing if the Spartans’ perimeter shooting was on point all game, but it wasn’t. So what was the team doing when they couldn’t shoot threes or get to the bucket? Nothing, that’s what.