Spartans Again Can't Overcome Deficit

In what has become a proverbial storyline for the Michigan State Spartans basketball squad (5-6), Tom Izzo's underachieving bunch couldn't overcome a 21-point second-half lead built by Syracuse. Analysis on Spartans' troubles inside.

In what has become a proverbial storyline for the Michigan State Spartans, Tom Izzo's underachieving squad  couldn't overcome a second-half deficit in a loss to No. 17 Syracuse on Saturday.

It is just one of several games this season in which Michigan State (5-6) had opportunities, but allowed the opposition to build a large lead. In losses to Kansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, the Spartans stayed competitive, but played from behind and failed to catch up.

The loss marks the fifth that the Spartans have lost against ranked nonconference foes. They have yet to beat a ranked opponent this season.

After keeping the game close, thanks in large part to sharp three-point shooting by Chris Hill (16 points) and a strong inside presence by Paul Davis (21 points), the Orangemen opened the flood gates early in the second-half.

Poor defense and turnovers allowed host Syracuse to build a 21-point lead, and a late Spartans rally that cut the lead to 8 was close as the visitors would get. The Orangemen dominated the paint, shooting 63 percent from the field on route to a 96-83 win.

Three Orangemen scored more than 20 points apiece, while 'Cuse point guard Gary McNamara added 18.

Freshman Shannon Brown scored a career-high 15 points for Michigan State, while Maurice Ager added 14. 

The Spartans, who have lost four of their last six, begin their Big Ten season on Saturday at No. 18 Wisconsin. Game time is slated for 12:00 p.m.

Although the Spartans kept the rebounding edge close this time (29-30), they still are not playing the traditional, Izzo-style defense. The 96 points scored by Syracuse are the most allowed by an Izzo-coached team in a regular-season game since a 99-96 loss to Purdue in 1998.

You would also have to hit the record books particularly hard to find the last time an opponent had three different players score more than 20 points, respectively, against an Izzo-coached squad.

The Spartans, defensively, were almost non-existent inside the paint. MSU recorded zero blocks, and gave up complete control to the Orangemen on the interior.

It should come as no surprise that the Spartans enter the Big Ten season with a sub .500 record. Basketball games are decided in the paint, and thus far into the season, the Spartans have not established a defensive interior at all. When was the last time an Izzo team had that problem? Here's a hint: You won't find it in any record book.

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