It is Michigan State's fifth game in eleven days, and the Spartans came out of the locker room looking like a team that is sorely in need of a break.
MSU started the game sluggish. They did not run their offensive sets efficiently, and, as a result, they were forced into taking bad shots.
They also turned the ball over in a variety of ways. Many players let passes slip right through their hands, and some passes were so bad, there was no chance of them even being caught. The Spartans ended the game with 19 turnovers.
"We have to limit our turnovers," guard Kalin Lucas said. "To be a great team, we can not have that many turnovers."
The Spartans looked a step slow getting to loose balls against the small and quick Bradley lineup. Too many lay-ups were missed, bad decisions were made and, once again, the communication on defense still isn't where it needs to be. The four-guard line-up that Bradley uses put MSU in some difficult situations.
"We tried to do some things defensively that we thought would work and Delvon (Roe) really struggled with what we wanted to do," coach Tom Izzo said. "There were some bizarre lineups in there. We played Travis at the four a lot, and I think that helped lead to some of the foolish turnovers."
If not for the shooting of Chris Allen, who finished the half with 13 points, and the bad free throw shooting by Bradley, the Spartans would have been trailing the Braves at the half instead of going into the break with a 32-27 lead.
The second half brought many of the same lazy passes from the Spartans, but the team came out playing with a level of intensity that was five times the level of which they played in the first half. The second half featured a balanced scoring attack as the Spartans increased the lead to as many as 21 points.
MSU attacked the basket more, which led to 14 free throw attempts in the half after shooting only six in the first half. The Spartans also got comfortable playing against a four-guard lineup, and the defensive rotation improved greatly.
"It was kind of tough for us in the first half," Walton said. "I felt in the second half we did a better job, but we still have to communicate and do a lot better job."
Lucas liked the effort more as the game wore on. "In the second half, guys had passion and played harder," he said.
Lucas (12 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) also felt that the team was still a little tired from the strenuous schedule, but freshman forward Draymond Green (5 points, 5 rebounds) thinks that the Spartans must be mentally tough and play with energy regardless of how tired they are.
"I never feel that we can show enough energy and I didn't think we showed enough," Draymond Green said. "We can't blame it on us being tired. We have to play through it. There are other teams playing the same type of schedule we are."
At halftime of Sunday's game, the Spartans were out rebounding the Braves 21-20. That margin is not what one would expect out of a team coached by Tom Izzo, but Bradley's lineup did cause a lot of confusion and it took time for the Spartans to adjust to.
"In the first half, we only had two offensive boards, but when you're playing four guards in there, some of them aren't use to going to the boards so I understood why," Izzo said.
The Spartans ended up winning the rebounding battle 45-32, but Izzo still was not completely satisfied with one player in particular.
"We have to get so much more out of Marquise Gray," explained Izzo. "He just has a lot more ability than I think he showed on the boards."
GETTING TO WHERE THEY NEED TO BE
The Spartans do not have another game until their contest on Saturday with Alcorn State due to finals. Going six days without a game will benefit the Spartans greatly as they will get some much needed work in at practice.
"We're not where we need to be at all," Izzo said. "We just need some practice time right now, and we need to keep everybody on the court."
Draymond Green knows that this team has not played up to its potential, but he is confident with time it will all come together.
"We're pretty far away, but at the same time we are making steps everyday," said Green. "We just have to keep on working, make it through this schedule and get ready for Big Ten play."