When it comes to summer trips overseas, college basketball programs handle their exhibition schedules in a variety of ways. Some go the route of playing teams they can handle, while others will put together a mixture of games they should win comfortably and a couple challenging contests.
Michigan State on the other hand, which won its opener in Italy, scheduled three games against national teams (Russia, Italy and Georgia) preparing for next month’s Eurobasket tournament that will determine which teams get to play in next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Saturday the Spartans played the second of those contests, and they lost 90-69 to an Italian national team that included NBA veterans Marco Belinelli and Danilo Galinari.
The Spartans pulled to within five points in the fourth quarter before the hosts closed the door on the comeback with a 20-4 run, handing Michigan State its second consecutive loss on the trip.
“We played so much better than we did yesterday, and I think that this is a better team,” said head coach Tom Izzo. “We did play better, but we lost by a point or two more than we did last night. The score was not indicative of the game. For 35 minutes, that was a pretty good game. I thought we did a lot of better things. (Bryn) Forbes played a lot better in the second half, (Gavin) Schilling played better and (Matt) Costello bounced back and played better. We also got a lot out of Colby (Wollenman) and Kenny (Goins), but we still have some issues with guys that did not play as well.”
Michigan State will play Georgia’s national team on Sunday in their final game of the trip, and while some may look to focus on the results the experience will benefit Tom Izzo’s team as they prepare for the 2015-16 campaign.
Above are some highlights from Saturday’s game, with Michigan State athletics putting together the video.