Spartans Basketball Notebook

Following Tom Izzo's Monday press conference, former State News editor and Spartans' analyst Ryan Wallace breaks down the MSU basketball team, including its three game conference losing streak, problems on the court, injuries, and more! You won't find more comprehensive MSU basketball coverage anywhere else!

(East Lansing) – After almost two weeks on the road, the MSU men's basketball team will finally play another Big Ten game at home.

The Spartans (9-7 overall, 1-3 Big Ten), who are coming off three straight Big Ten road losses, will host Penn State at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Breslin Center.

Head coach Tom Izzo said at Monday's press conference that it will be nice to get a break from the road, but his team still has business to take care of.

"I'm a little worried because you know relief that you're home makes you think you're gonna win, and some of that is good," Izzo said. "So we are trying to regroup, we're coming home and that doesn't mean anything is automatic as most of you know and I hope our players understand."

MSU has not had much luck on the road this year. The Spartans are just 2-6 away from the friendly confines of Breslin Center.

The Spartans have dropped four of their last five, with their last win coming Jan. 9 against Ohio State in the Big Ten home opener.

Izzo said returning to East Lansing will hopefully be what this team needs.

"So all we're worried about now is getting healthy…I mean healthy getting our minds back, feeling good about ourselves," he said. "And I think getting a win would be instrumental in the first step of doing that. We practiced well, they're focused on what we gotta get done and we think we're gonna get turned around and get it done. So that's the approach we're taking."

Constant turnovers

One of the biggest reasons why the Spartans have struggled has been their inability to maintain possession of the ball.

In the last three loses to Iowa, Purdue and Minnesota, MSU has turned the ball over almost 10 times in the first half, which has left them with huge deficits.

Izzo has said it time and time again that until they stop turning the ball over, they will continue to struggle.

"You can't make some of the turnovers we're making," he said. "I would be more than happy to give turnovers credit to the defense if I thought they were that way."

Izzo can't pinpoint why his team is struggling in such an important facet of the game, but he said he thinks it has to do with injuries and having to play players who aren't at their full capacity.

"It seems like we're playing so many guys that our half-ready, or have been out of practice for so long that it's really hard to get any continuity, which I think has hurt our turnovers."

If there is a silver lining, it's that the second half has been the complete opposite for the Spartans.

Against Iowa, MSU committed six turnovers in the second half. Against Purdue and Minnesota, MSU turned the ball over five and six times, respectively.

Getting to the point

All season long, MSU has been trying to find someone to handle the ball. Sophomores Chris Hill and Alan Anderson have had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Marcus Taylor.

Taylor, who skipped his final two seasons of college ball, created a void that Tom Izzo wasn't prepared to deal. And a costly injury to junior college transfer Rashi Johnson has forced Hill and Anderson to play out of position.

Learning during the season has been hard on the duo, who have struggled with turnovers

Izzo said the point guard position is so important to a team's success, citing several games Mateen Cleaves guided the Spartans to victory. He also said a lack of a true point guard is hindering the entire team.

"There's no doubt that's the worst part. Chris would be better, Alan would be better, KT would be better, you know and I think defensively we'd be better," Izzo said. "It's a critical position; we've got guys trying to do it. We were caught by a guy leaving, we were caught by an injury and that's not much else to say about it.

"We got to continue to try to make the team we got better and see if we can get Rashi in there. I don't think there's any question that it's had a major affect not just on that position, but hey poor Chris now has to play that position and Alan has to play that position instead playing the other positions they feel comfortable with."

Confidence isn't just built

Izzo said his team maybe struggling a little bit with the mental side of the game, but he also understands they are the only ones who can pull themselves out.

"People always say you know you gotta give your players some confidence," he said. "Confidence is like respect, it's not given. You know confidence is earned.

"The only way you can earn it is to work your way out of it and that's what we're going to do, we're going to try to work our way out of it as a staff, as a team, we're not going to hope anybody gives us anything. We're going to earn our keep.

Getting defensive

Despite being near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, the Spartans have found near the top of one an important statistic.

MSU is second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense, allowing its opponents to shot just 40 percent from the field. Illinois is tops, holding their opponents to 38.7 percent.

During the current three-game skid, MSU has turned up the defense in the second half, which has allowed them to crawl back and make the game somewhat close.

Against Iowa, MSU held the Hawkeyes to a 34.8 field goal percentage in the second half. Against Purdue, MSU held the Boilermakers to a 26.3 second-half field goal percentage and against Minnesota, MSU held the Golden Gophers to a 40.9 second-half percent field goal percentage.

Injury report

Freshman center Paul Davis suffered a sprained ankle in Saturday's game against Minnesota and was not able to practice on Monday.

Izzo said he's a question mark for Tuesday and he doesn't know what his status will be for Wednesday's game.

Johnson, who saw his first action in five weeks playing one minute against Minnesota, is also still a question mark.

Izzo said that he will not be back in the rotation immediately, but will continue to get more practice time.

"Right now he's had three practices. He's not that good where he's going to sit out six weeks, five and a half weeks and in three practices be back in the rotation," Izzo said. "We're just trying to get him some practice time, trying to get him in there a little bit to know some of the things we do."

Izzo said he's hopeful by the end of week he could play the backup point guard a little more.


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