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Tom Izzo Notes & Quotes: “If I get those kind of shots and we can’t make them, we’re not going to win any games”

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Michigan State missed a lot of open looks on Sunday.

Michigan State v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans lost again on Sunday afternoon, and are starting to seriously flirt with the reality of missing the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 1997. The Spartans dropped a game to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus by a final score of 79-62.

It was a much better effort from the Spartans compared to whatever Thursday night’s 30-point blowout loss to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights was, but obviously it was still not good enough to get a victory or even really compete with the Buckeyes for the majority of the game.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, speaking after the game said he liked the effort his team showed, but the inability to hit open shots made it awfully difficult for the Spartans to challenge the Buckeyes.

“Hard to complain about the effort,” Izzo said. “I think we missed four front-ends for the game — two in the first half and a couple layups. I thought we had some good shots, they just didn’t go in (for) Aaron (Henry) and Josh (Langford). Rocket (Watts) had a few (misses). But Aaron and Josh are two of my better shooters and I thought they had some good shots. I thought (Ohio State) made some unbelievable shots — I think three of them right at the end of the shot clock.”

Despite numerous open looks, Michigan State shot just 32.1 percent from the floor, making 17 field goals on 53 attempts. The Spartans really struggled from three-point range, hitting just five shots on 24 percent (20.8 percent). Ohio State, meanwhile, hit 25-of-55 shots (45.5 percent).

Izzo did like what he saw from certain players, but didn’t think enough guys stepped up, and for the second game in a row, Izzo questioned whether or not he played Joshua Langford too many minutes. Langford is just recovering from a battle with COVID.

“We had some better play out of (Joey) Hauser, better play out of Julius Marble,” Izzo said. “We did not get better play out of some other guys. But my stars gotta play. I probably played Josh too many minutes, 32 minutes, I just needed a shooter in there without Gabe (Brown) with us I just didn’t have a lot of options.”

Izzo also gave credit to Ohio State, and was encouraged with certain aspects from what he saw from his team. But the shooting issues were too much to overcome.

“Ohio State’s a pretty good team,” Izzo said. “They played hard, they played well. (They’re) a very physical team for not a huge team. So, we took a small step forward in some ways, but the shooting woes continue.”

Izzo went back to starting Rocket Watts at the point guard, something he had done early in the season, but not recently after Watts asked to move back to the shooting guard spot. When asked about the rotation and if Watts was going to stay at point guard moving forward, Izzo isn’t quite sure yet.

“I don’t know,” Izzo said. “I just know this, a lot of people are rotating people and I’m going to keep rotating until I find the right rotation. (Watts) wasn’t very good (today). He had an unbelievable day yesterday, looked like some of my old point guards, and then to get back into the game and he just reverted back a little bit. I don’t know what I’m going to do (against Iowa), I have two days to think about it, I’m going to be thinking about it...I’m going to play the people that are best.”

Izzo also mentioned that he doesn’t think the leadership on the team has been quite good enough, but that his team is fighting through the season with limited practice time due to the COVID issues within the program and the quick turnaround times in between games. He says the lack of practice time has been one of the biggest challenges for him to identify where his team actually stands.

“I’d say the biggest thing, I’m trying to figure out is where my team is,” Izzo said. “I just have no blueprint...I’m trying to figure out where I am with that (after the long COVID pause). What should I expect from my team? What should I expect from Josh (Langford)? You can’t be off 20 days. I know that. You know that. We don’t wanna make excuses, but that’s probably the hardest challenge for me.”

Izzo mentioned Gabe Brown’s name multiple times, and said the team could really use his shooting right now. Brown is currently out due to COVID-19 protocols, and Izzo didn’t have an exact timetable on his return, but expects him to be out for at least another week.

The difference in the game, though, as Izzo pointed out on numerous occasions, was Michigan State’s complete inability to make uncontested shots. He plans to review today’s game on film, but he felt that Michigan State got a lot of open shots — the shots just weren’t going through the hoop.

“The film doesn’t help the shot,” Izzo said. “The film can help free you for shots, but believe it or not, we got some good looks today. I think a lot of good looks. I’ll figure that out when I look at the film.

“If I get those kind of shots and we can’t make them, we’re not going to win any games,” Izzo also commented. “The beginning of the year we’re making all of those shots.”

Something unrelated to today’s game that Izzo also spoke about was former Temple head coach John Chaney, who passed away on Friday. Izzo says that he is really going to miss Chaney and that Chaney is the reason why he always schedules tough non-conference games for Michigan State every season.

As the story goes, early on in Izzo’s career, he made a statement that he wanted to play more games on national TV. The two did not know each other at the time, but Chaney heard Izzo’s request and wanted to set up a home-and-home series, which they did. Izzo says Chaney was really good for the Michigan State program and taught him to “go play more and take your whooping, and keep getting back up and eventually it will pay off.” Izzo has followed Chaney’s advice ever since, as evidenced by Michigan State’s tough non-conference schedules year-in and year-out.

“His advice stuck with me,” Izzo said about Chaney. “I’ve always given him credit for it.”