Alright, this is going to start bad and end good.
I just need to get all the negativity (or as I call it, reality) off my chest right off the bat. And then we will point out the good things to try to get this salty taste out of our mouths.
That’s not a good loss. I know McQuaid was gone and it was a road game, but that’s not a good Louisville team. This isn’t Rick Pitino’s Cardinals. This is a team that will probably be a tournament bubble team that will get in because of Tuesday night’s game.
Where do you even begin with how this one was botched? Do you start with another sloppy first half – their third game this season where they trailed by double-digits?
Do you start with Cassius Winston reaching in for a rebound he was never going to get, fouling out with four minutes left in the second half?
Do you start with Foster Loyer – one of the best free throw shooters in Michigan high school history – missing a front end of a one-and-one with 36 seconds left? Or him fouling Louisville’s best free throw shooter 28 feet away from the basket in overtime for two free points?
No, you start with Josh Langford’s turnover with 13 seconds left in regulation with a one point lead. He grabs the ball, stares right at point guard Loyer, and decides to keep the ball. He got flustered, threw the ball to Goins(?) and two Cardinals pounced on the chance. Langford passes the ball to Loyer, doesn’t panic or draws a foul, MSU probably wins that game.
And I’ll say this until either I’m six feet under or something changes, but college officiating has ruined the game. Yeah, TV Teddy is painful to watch, but overall those refs on Tuesday called the game the NCAA wants them to call. There is zero flow to games anymore. There were a combined 64 free throws shot. If anyone even thinks of looking at anyone, it’s a foul.
College basketball used to be my favorite sport, but now I barely watch any games outside of MSU. I don’t want to kill two and a half hours watching possession-whistle-possession-whistle-possession-possession-whistle-possession-whistle-whistle-possession. I don’t know how anyone can anymore.
Alright, enough of the negativity. Let’s point out some positives from the game.
Kyle Ahrens played great in his starting role, replacing injured (day-to-day) Matt McQuaid. He led the team in minutes (41) and tied for the high in points (15) and looked damn good doing it. Between his confident 3-point stroke and his athleticism to go inside and throw down, Ahrens might be establishing himself as the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year once McQuaid comes back.
Kenny Goins was fantastic. Simply fantastic. He knows what he’s there for — doing the dirtiest of the dirty work. He didn’t attempt any field goals and grabbed 17 rebounds. Seventeen. He was a machine on the glass. Sure, he missed that free throw when he was damn near blind and didn’t shoot the entire game, but that seems forgivable.
Xavier Tillman also had a strong showing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. He seems like a really mature player out there — doesn’t really force any shots, almost looks like a point forward down low orchestrating the offense and puts himself in good positions.
Langford, as tough of a game as he had, was a big reason the game was even close down the stretch. With Winston out, Langford took the game in his hands and scored seven straight for the Spartans. Not a banner game overall, but that stretch can’t go unnoticed.
How about the freshmen too? There was a good deal of promise out there, starting with Aaron Henry who saw nine of his 13 minutes in the first half thanks to early foul trouble by Langford. Foster Loyer’s baseline bucket toward the end of the second half showed a glimpse of what he can do. Yes he missed that free throw and it wasn’t an A+ game for him, but overall it wasn’t bad. Gabe Brown knocked down both 3-pointers he attempted and looked good doing it.
Alright, next up is Rutgers on the road (again) on Friday at 6 p.m. Do these players even know what Breslin Center looks like anymore?!
Rutgers is 4-1 on the season and will play Miami tonight (7:15 p.m.). They lost by 19 to St. John’s earlier this year (shoutout to Marvin Clark) and also helped Eastern Michigan set a NCAA record of fewest amount of points in the first half with four. Four. I still can’t get over that.
Let’s just hope Ward and Izzo and Ward’s mom and pretty much the whole fan base doesn’t start feuding after this road game in Piscataway.