Spartans' head basketball coach Tom Izzo likely envisioned a better start to the regular season, but he'll take it.
No. 3 ranked Michigan State outlasted the Bucknell Bison 64-52 Friday night in the Breslin Center, but the game -- for all intents and purposes -- was lost by Bucknell, rather than won by State.
Bucknell missed an appalling 16 of 17 free throw attempts, including all eight second half attempts, as State rallied from a 50-49 deficit to close out the Bison with a 15-2 run in the final seven minutes.
"Teams that play hard usually win, and this is the softest team we've had in the nine years I've been here," Izzo said after the game. "We are soft."
The Spartans can't be soft with a match-up at Kansas on Tuesday, and later contests with Duke, Oklahoma, UCLA and defending national champion Syracuse. Some questioned whether or not the Spartans had looked past a feist Bucknell squad.
"I don't think we were looking ahead, but it seemed like that the way we played," shooting-guard Alan Anderson said.
The Spartans were led by sophomore center Paul Davis (21 points), junior guard Chris Hill (12 points, 7 assists) and freshman Shannon Brown committed eight points, on route to Michigan State's 27th consecutive season opening win.
ANALYSIS: There was worry entering the season that the young Spartans might not be prepared following an unimpressive (1-1) pre-season record. That worry was realized Friday evening against a vastly inferior opponent. Michigan State failed to match Bucknell's intensity throughout the contest, and was thoroughly outhustled and outplayed -- except, obviously, on the free throw line.
A repeat performance on the road against a tough Kansas team could lead to a long and hapless season for Tom Izzo & Crew. If the athletically gifted Spartans don't step it up soon, their No. 3 ranking -- and post-season hopes -- will fade quickly.