There were moments of brilliance that made you think that the Spartans had finally navigated their way out of the funk that they have been in since Thanksgiving. Then, before you could blink, a sloppy, inconsistent team appeared.
The Spartans eventually won the game 79-65 over The Citadel to improve to 7-2 on the season.
MSU Senior Goran Suton played for the first time since November 19, entering the game after the first television timeout. He showed rust, hitting nothing but glass on his first field goal attempt, but he didn't show any signs that he was still injured, and that was encouraging to see. He finished with 4 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes.
"I think I played alright, I was a little rusty, I just got to get my timing back," Suton said "I'm pain free. I felt great out there."
The Spartans started the game off well, being paced by the steady play Kalin Lucas, who finished with 7 points and 8 assists with a single turnover.
Raymar Morgan also had a strong first half as he scored 13 points and grabbed 7 boards in the first 20 minutes. Morgan finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 11 of his 12 shots.
With Suton out, Morgan was forced to spend a lot of time playing power forward. On Wednesday he was able to slide down and play his natural small forward position.
"I'm starting to get comfortable again back at the three," Morgan said. "I've been working on my jumper, and just doing the things I need to do to play the three again."
Coach Tom Izzo said he liked what he saw out of Morgan. "I thought Raymar really showed some good signs with the things in the huddle and the things in the locker room. I thought he really stepped up a lot."
The game took a sharp turn in the last three minutes of the half, though. The Spartans started making bad decisions on the offensive end. Bad shots and stagnant possessions plagued the Spartans, who committed 14 turnovers on the night.
For the second straight game, the Spartans started picking their opponent up full-court. They had active hands and were communicating well. But in the final three minutes, MSU gave up an inordinate amount of open looks from beyond the arc. The Spartans saw their 18 point lead dwindle down to eight at the half, 41-33.
"I think we started off the game pretty good, but then it boils down to defense, us trying to stay focused," Lucas explained. "I think the last three minutes (of the first half) we weren't focused. They started getting some buckets, some easy baskets."
The Spartans never completely recovered from the lackluster finish to the first half. The Citadel continued to connect from deep, and many of the threes that the Bulldogs hit were very difficult shots, but they're bodies were squared up and they took the shots in rhythm. The Bulldogs drained 10 triples on the night.
The Bulldogs just played more aggressively than the Spartans in the second half. The run they made at the end of the first 20 minutes gave their confidence a great boost against the more talented Spartans.
"I'm kind of lost for words to tell you how I felt about tonight's game," Izzo said. "I don't think we respected our opponent. I didn't think we respected the game of basketball tonight"
The Spartans' next game is on Saturday against the fifth ranked Texas Longhorns in Houston. It is imperative that many things get corrected before Saturday, especially in terms of the perimeter defense, because the Longhorns' A.J. Abrams can put up a lot points in a small amount of time.
ROE GETTING HEALTHY
One bright spot for the Spartans on Wednesday night was the play of Delvon Roe. Roe finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, but the most encouraging sign was his tenacity. Roe was in the middle of everything. He was deflecting passes, grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring down low, and frequently hitting the deck to get loose balls.
"Delvon Roe plays hard. He got every loose ball," coach Tom Izzo said. "I was happy and proud of Delvon."
Roe has been steadily progressing this season, and it looked like he took a big step against the Bulldogs.
"I think I'm getting a lot more comfortable the last couple of games," explained Roe. "I'm taking my time out there. It's starting to come a lot more natural now."
And it looked as if he was not bothered by his knees.
"No problems at all. It's been about a month and a half now where I'm feeling no pain," Roe said. "I think I'm past that point with any knee problems."
GREEN UNDER THE WEATHER
Freshman forward Draymond Green only played three minutes in Wednesday night's game, because he was under the weather. Tom Izzo mentioned that Green would have played a lot more if he wasn't sick.