Tom Izzo said it perfectly.
"We were a team that when you smashed us in the mouth, we smashed you back," said Izzo, following the Spartans 77-64 loss to Wisconsin in their Big Ten opener. "And right now were not doing that."
On Saturday, the No. 22 ranked Badgers hammered the Spartans (5-7, 1-0), who were unable to respond after Wisconsin ended the first half with a flurry of points.
Michigan State actually led at one point early in the contest, marching to a commanding 17-5 advantage. That lead would quickly evaporate, however, as Wisconsin (11-2, 1-0) dominated the game in every facet.
The Badgers out-rebounded, out-shot, and even out-blocked the Spartans, who also committed 15 turnovers that were converted into 25 points.
Besides his own team's play, Izzo also made it clear he wasn't pleased with the way the game was refereed. Michigan State was called for 25 personal fouls, while Wisconsin was whistled on just 13 occasions.
"I felt like there was a lot of physical play inside," said Izzo. "I thought it was knick-knack on one end and not on the other."
The Spartans return home to host Penn State on Wednesday. Game time is slated for 8:00 p.m. (est)
Tom Izzo questioned his team's toughness early on in the season, and 13 games into the season, it has become blatantly obvious that he was correct. Unlike past Spartan squads, this team folded in Wisconsin. It buckled under the opposition's home crowd, and never responded when the Badgers "smashed" them in the mouth.
Michigan State harbors more talent than Wisconsin, but the Badgers were willing to do the dirty work to pull out a victory. They out-hustled MSU on several occasions, even in the second-half when it seemed the Spartans might consider crawling back into the game. Michigan State missed lay-ups, played poor interior defense, handed out second chances, and many times, blew offensive opportunities by turning the ball over.
Any NCAA team can go 0-6 against ranked opponents, but Michigan State basketball isn't supposed to lay a goose egg. Although it seemed to be a good learning experience at the time, the Spartans have simply proven six times that they cannot handle legitimate pressure. Without a real team leader that pulls them out of desperate situations, and a severe lack of Izzo-style defense, Spartan Nation may not even want to witness this team perform in the tournament -- if they're able to make it.