It seems like we’ve said this a lot in college basketball this year, but No. 1 has gone down. This time, it’s Michigan State. The Spartans were simply overpowered in Columbus, as the Buckeyes handed MSU an 80-64 loss. Here are a few of my quick takes from the game.
Michigan State should and needs to learn from this
It was an ugly game for the Spartans from start to finish. The defense wasn’t there, shooting was off, OSU wasn’t missing. It was a recipe for disaster from the beginning. However, the Spartans need to move on from this game and learn from it. Bad shooting days are bound to happen, but you can control defense. Yes, the Buckeyes hit a lot of tough shots, but the Spartan defense was no where near the level we’ve been seeing over the last couple of months. OSU got the basket whenever it wanted and the Spartans had no answer. Another problem for the Spartans: no one could stop Keita Bates-Diop. He torched, and I mean torched the MSU defense. It didn’t matter who was guarding him, he was scoring and scoring and scoring. He finished the game with a career high 32 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. MSU is still a good team, but as Izzo said after the Maryland game, they do have flaws. Some of those were exposed today, but some of it was the Buckeyes’ hot shooting. Either way, MSU needs to get better and learn from this loss.
What happened to the bench play?
Heading into the season, just about everyone was talking about the incredible depth of MSU. We’ve really yet to see that depth outside of a monster game against Maryland. The Spartan bench scored 27 points against Maryland on Jan. 4. Today, the Spartan bench contributed four points. Gavin Schilling and Tum Tum Nairn each had a bucket. Don’t get me wrong, MSU has a lot of bodies that can come in and play solid minutes. But they don’t have a consistent scoring option that they can count on, which puts a lot of pressure on the starers. Matt McQuaid was expected to be a good scoring option off the bench this year, but he hasn’t quite found his rhythm yet. Outside of McQuaid, there isn’t a great scoring option the Spartans can look to. Tum Tum is a defensive specialist, Gavin Schilling is a good rebounder that provides depth in the front court, Kenny Goins has worked on his outside shot, but we haven’t seen enough out of him to rule him a “scorer” and Xavier Tillman simply doesn’t play enough minutes to make much of an impact. MSU’s starters will carry a ton of the load, as they should, but if MSU wants to win a title, which they can, they need to find more consistent bench scoring.
Nick Ward is a big key to MSU’s success
One of the biggest things I took away from this game is the way OSU was able to take Nick Ward completely out of the game. Ward was 0-1 from the field and hit three free throws in 26 minutes (a season high). That should never happen to a player of his caliber. Now, I will say that he was getting doubled just about every time he touched the ball and the Buckeyes got away with some contact on him. However, MSU needs to get more creative and find ways to get him the ball. He’s simply too talented to get just one shot in a game where you’re down and need easy baskets. He is shooting 72.3 percent this season. Yes, 72.3 percent, which is incredible. He’s nearly automatic around the basket and needs to get more touches. One thing he does need to work on going forward is passing out of the post. He’s been seeing more and more double teams as the season goes along and they will continue to come. If he can work on passing to open shooters out of the post, the double teams will go away. However, the shooters have to make the shots, too. Ward is a monumental part of MSU’s success this year, and he needs to get the ball more.