Thursday’s loss hurt.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half at Indiana, lots of Spartan fans were convinced it would be a repeat of a 30-point blowout loss at Purdue just a week prior. But, the Spartans battled back with a chance to come out with a win before ultimately falling short, losing 67-63 in the closing seconds.
With a second-straight road game against a Minnesota team coming off an emotional win at Ohio State, many Spartans fans were questioning whether or not the team could bounce back quickly enough. But, as he seemingly always does after a loss, Tom Izzo coached his team to a quick rebound victory.
About an hour before tip-off, it was announced that Rocket Watts and Malik Hall would be starting in place of Aaron Henry and Marcus Bingham Jr. It was a surprising move, but given the context, it made sense. At both Purdue and Indiana, the Spartans took a while to get going on both ends of the floor, which is something that you cannot afford, especially on the road in a league like the Big Ten.
Rocket Watts had been playing well since coming back from his injury, and Malik Hall has had a solid performance in his first season. Giving some new guys a chance to start and provide a little change in energy was a good move by Izzo, and it paid off. Both teams played good defense to start, but just a few minutes in, as shots started to fall, the Spartans never looked back.
So with a tough schedule on the horizon for Michigan State, what are some takeaways from this win that can help them down this stretch?
1. Give younger players minutes.
First, keep giving younger guys minutes. Michigan State has an outstanding freshmen class to work with. Rocket Watts is turning into the shooter everyone thought he’d be this season, Malik Hall and Julius Marble are both exceptional players that can give Xavier Tillman and Marcus Bingham Jr. rest. Sticking with the starting lineup from the Minnesota game might be a good call too, at least on the road. The younger two stepped up and got the Spartans off to a strong start.
2. Keep Winston going.
Second, find ways to keep Cassius Winston in his groove. When Winston plays well, the Spartans are a completely different team. We saw that at Minnesota. With a home game up next against a struggling Northwestern team, this is a good opportunity to keep Winston’s momentum going.
Winston was 7-14, 3-5 from 3 pt. range, with 18 points and 8 assists. If the Spartans want to keep on winning, it’s important to keep Cassius Winston playing at a high level.
With a Hall of Fame coach like Tom Izzo, it’s not unlikely that this is the first of many more victories this season, and this game was a step in the right direction for the Spartans. In a league like the Big Ten, it’s easy to get caught in a rough stretch and drop games you shouldn’t, but if the Spartans play like they did in this game, they shouldn’t have any problems down the stretch.