EAST LANSING — After losing to Kansas to start the season, the Spartans came home to regroup and get ready for their opener against Florida Gulf Coast. MSU blew out the Eagles, 106-82, but per usual Tom Izzo was visibly and verbally upset (that’s how you know college basketball is back).
“I’m kind of disappointed if you want the truth. I’m frustrated by how we played, but I’m really frustrated and feel sympathy — if you want the truth,” said Izzo during his opening statement after the game.
He continued by saying he felt bad for the fans, the opposing team, somewhat bad for the Spartans, and “really bad for the officials.”
The long-time MSU coach didn’t hold back when criticizing the way the game is currently being refereed. After 24 years he’s “not sure if he ever really felt bad for an official.” Undoubtedly, tonight was different.
This isn’t the first time Izzo has been upset with the direction basketball is going, but it is a heavy statement from a big ambassador of the game itself.
“The poor officials are mandated, if they don’t call it this way (then) they don’t work the NCAA tournament.” In his opinion, the higher ups are the ones really calling these basketball games. They incentivize a certain type of officiating, which benefits them in the long run.
“What they want is a sideshow here: Score 150 points, and let the other team score 140,” said Izzo.
Fans love offense and always will. That’s true of any sport, but is it getting out of hand when we think of hoops? You decide.
DOUBLE DOUBLE ALERT for @nickward44 and first one for JL #SpartanDawgs pic.twitter.com/yVQx3NqpXP— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) November 12, 2018
This was just the third meeting between these two universities. Fortunately, for the Spartans they own the all-time series, 3-0.
The first few minutes of the game, Michigan State started slow and looked sluggish with poor perimeter defense. It didn’t last long though, as the Spartans came out of a timeout and scored 16 straight points in five minutes.
The trio of Josh Langford, Cassius Winston, and Nick Ward led the way for MSU and were the primary culprits for the teams success tonight. They had 57 points, 23 rebounds, and 13 assists.
Even more, Langford recorded his first career double-double with 18 points and 10 boards. He was clearly motivated from the start — playing with high energy and was aggressive throughout.
“I just wanted to go out there and give my team my best effort,” said Langford. “That’s what my team needs from me — is to be aggressive and to be in attack mode.”
He attempted the most field goals on the team, which is something Izzo talked to him about during the Kansas game. He wanted him too play with energy and be aggressive. Izzo got what he wanted and it didn’t go unnoticed.
“Josh did an incredible job rebounding the ball,” said Izzo.
Above all, Izzo still wasn’t happy about his teams performance saying he felt terrible for the fans because “we didn’t play very well in the second half” and they had to sit through it.
As a unit, the Spartans played pretty well. Fans should take the opponent into account and like Izzo stated “As the teams get better, we will not outscore people — evident of the other night.”
That being said, Michigan State was consistent and played as aggressive as they could.
MSU finished with 49 rebounds (20 offensive, 29 defensive), 33 assists, and shot 53% from the field. The Spartan guards kept feeding the big man and Ward continuously went up strong while getting hacked. He made 7-of-11 shots from the field and achieved a new career high in assists.
After committing five turnovers by himself in their last outing, he decided to pass out of double teams and find his guys.
“The way I passed. I love getting assists...I’m pretty proud of myself,” said Ward when asked what he thought of his performance tonight.
Moving forward, the Spartans will have to cut down on the turnovers. They committed 16 of them tonight and while some of those came from young guys, Izzo didn’t care for it.
“We’re gonna have to clean that up,” he said.
Even though it’s early in the season Michigan State has things they need to address, just like every other team in the nation. It’s never too early to start, especially for a decorated program who has underperformed in the tournament these past few years.
“I’m not going to be satisfied with anything this year. We’re going back to the way it’s supposed to be,” said Izzo. “Guys can be accountable and people gotta be accountable.”