For much of this season the prevailing theme regarding No. 22 Michigan State is that once completely healthy, the Spartans could be one of the favorites to win the national title. With guard Keith Appling and forwards Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne all in the fold alongside guard Gary Harris, Michigan State has a rotation that’s as talented and experienced as any in the country.
Michigan State showed glimpses of this potential at various points in Sunday’s 69-67 loss at Ohio State, but their offensive struggles down the stretch resulted in the Spartans’ sixth conference defeat.
Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) didn’t score a point in the final four minutes and 30 seconds, missing all four of their field goal attempts and committing three turnovers. Obviously the Buckeyes (23-8, 10-8) deserve some credit for this, as they are very sold defensive team. But when forced to execute in the half-court down the stretch Michigan State struggled, and this something they’ve got to clean in the days leading up to the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan State turned the ball over on 24.2% of its possessions against Ohio State, the fourth consecutive game in which the Spartans have turned the ball over on at least 21% of their possessions. Michigan State’s record: 1-3. Payne was responsible for five of those turnovers, and Appling finished Sunday’s game with six assists and three turnovers. After seemingly snapping out of his slump in the win over No. 24 Iowa, Appling made just one of his four shot attempts and scored two points.
Part of that was the Ohio State defense, with Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott both being capable defenders. But Appling also didn’t consistently show the assertion that was present in the second half of Thursday’s win, and that has to change heading into postseason play. Sunday’s performance had its positives however, with Michigan State making ten three-pointers and shooting 51.9% from the field in the first half. But they weren’t as effective in the second half as they were in the first, resulting in a tough loss in Columbus.
There’s no reason to panic however, and earning a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament gets a group that’s been banged up for much of the season an extra day’s rest. And it isn’t like the Spartans don’t have the talent needed to rectify the issues they struggled with in Columbus.