Joshua Langford has been mostly awesome for Michigan State. The 6-foot-5 junior entered Tuesday night averaging 17.5 points while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and a scintillating 47.5 percent from 3-point range. Just over the weekend, he put 29 points on Texas while making 5 of 6 shots from distance. He was our Player of the Week.
For Michigan State to be great this year, like win the Big Ten and compete for a national title great, that’s what they need from the former five-star prospect.
He was decidedly not that against Louisville, and Michigan State took its second L of the season.
The ninth-ranked Spartans lost to Cardinals in overtime, 82-78, at the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday with Langford suffering through an inconsistent evening, and the Spartans struggling to overcome it with Matt McQuaid back in East Lansing with injury and star point guard Cassius Winston battling foul trouble.
Langford missed seven of his first eight shots from the floor before briefly catching fire before the end of regulation, but it wasn’t enough. He finished with 15 points, making 5 of 14 from the floor to go along with four rebounds, two assists and an ugly four turnovers.
One of those turnovers came in inexplicable fashion at near the end of regulation when Michigan State led by one. Langford corralled a defensive rebound with 24 seconds left, dribbled down the sideline…and then simply threw the ball away. Louisville took possession, made a free throw and got the game to OT, where they outscored the Spartans 15-11. Let’s not even mention the fact he didn’t hit the rim on an intentionally-missed free throw in OT. That would just be piling on.
Now, this loss doesn’t simply belong to Langford. Winston fouled out with 4 minutes left in regulation after going 3 of 11 from the floor, though he did have six assists and two steals. The Spartans were without McQuaid, who has a thigh injury. The committed 17 turnovers as a group.
It was a game, though, that just showed how desperately Michigan State needs Langford to be excellent to max out their season. Duke’s Marques Bolden is the only player from the Class of 2016 that was ranked higher than Langford and still in school, as noted by Rob Dauster in yesterday’s Overreaction podcast. Langford hasn’t totally lived up to top-20 expectations, but it’s clear the talent is there. Just look what he did against Texas.
For Michigan State to move back into the nation’s elite tier of teams this season, a level of the likes of Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga, it’ll have to include a great Langford. Winston is one of the country’s best assistmen, Nick Ward is a load to deal with on both ends of the floor, McQuaid is deep threat, the Spartans have a talented supporting cast and that Tom Izzo guy on the bench. If they’ve got a dynamic two-way wing that can take over games, that could put them over the top in suddenly very-good looking Big Ten, and nudge about against the country’s best teams.
Langford has been mostly that this season, but he wasn’t against the Cardinals and it cost Michigan State.