New sport, same inability to finish strong.
The hoops season got off to a bit of a thud, as the Spartans fell 66-62 to UConn in Germany.
MSU dug itself an early hole and trailed by double-digits for most of the first half, but cut the deficit to seven by half. MSU took a few second-half leads, but the Huskies answered right back. MSU had three buckets in the final eight-ish minutes of the game, and UConn got the stops and made free throws at the other end.
Keith Appling led MSU with a quiet 17 points, along with five assists.
(Note: I know different box scores have different things, so these stats aren't official)
Some bright spots:
Derrick Nix: Per the ESPN box score, he finished with 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. He hustled, but had trouble scoring (six points on 1-for-4 shooting) and had four turnovers.
Branden Dawson: What ACL tear? He was MSU's only offense early and finished with 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Most importantly, his cutting and leaping ability seems to be right where it left off, as he finished with six rebounds, including four on the offensive end. He did seem to wear down by the end, and you wonder where his conditioning is at, given his recovery.
Denzel Valentine: Had four points and seven rebounds and looked very confident on the floor. Given MSU's turnover problems, you wonder if his ball-handling role will increase.
Offensive rebounds: MSU finished with 14 out of their 34 total rebounds. UConn had six offensive boards out of their 25 total. Second chances might be one of MSU's best scoring plays.
Turnovers: ESPN has MSU finishing with 15 for the game, but it sure seemed like more. This is often a problem with Izzo teams, especially in nonconference play.
Shooting: MSU finished 24-for-60 from the floor for 40 percent. Gary Harris went 4-for-13 and Travis Trice went 1-for-5. Not good from your shooters. (Update: Izzo thinks Trice could have a concussion, per reporters in Germany).
The last time a UConn team upset MSU, they won the national championship. That won't be happening this year, as UConn is ineligible for the postseason.
Now the Spartans will face Kansas in Atlanta. Can MSU ever win one of these big event games? Obviously March is the most important thing, but this is another thing that separates MSU from the Dukes and Carolinas of college hoops.
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