INside Slant Report Says MSU Is In Trouble

The inside slant says Michigan State is in big trouble. The Spartans have lost three straight games. Their star is ailing. A three-game conference lead has eroded into a first-place tie in that time, and this team still has to travel to Purdue at the end of the month. But can they still claim the conference regular season crown? GET INside to find out the inside slant.


Michigan State is in big trouble. The Spartans have lost three straight games. Their star is ailing. One of their supposed stars is in the doghouse and out of it on the court. And the Big Ten championship they were cruising to a week ago is suddenly very much in doubt.

The Spartans' 76-64 home loss to Purdue on Tuesday capped a stretch of three defeats in eight days. A three-game conference lead has eroded into a first-place tie in that time, and this team still has to travel to Purdue at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, junior point guard Kalin Lucas played courageously in the Purdue loss with 12 points off the bench, but the right ankle he sprained in last week's loss at Wisconsin had him hobbling all night. There's no telling when that will be 100 percent healthy.

And junior guard Durrell Summers is officially the team's top problem. Coach Tom Izzo benched Summers for the entire second half against Purdue even though he is the team's most athletic player.

"I just tried to play the guys I thought I had the best chance to win with, that's all," Izzo said when asked after the game about Summers.

Meanwhile, senior forward Raymar Morgan had just six points and was invisible for long stretches. And the Spartans have allowed better than 50 percent shooting in all three losses.

Saturday's game at Penn State will tell a lot about where the rest of this season is heading.

"We have to bounce back," Lucas said. "No choice, we have to."

PURDUE 76, MICHIGAN STATE 64: E'Twaun Moore scored 25 big points to lead Purdue, including the 3-point bomb with 4:12 left that doubled Purdue's lead after the Spartans had chopped it from 18 to three. Chris Allen's 3-pointer with 4:30 left capped a 25-10 run for the Spartans, turning a lopsided loss into a possible stolen victory. Butthen Moore answered over Allen, starting the Boilermakers on a 9-0 run to seal the victory.

Purdue shot 56.8 percent from the field and hit 20 of 22 free throws. The Spartans shot a dismal 32.1 percent and were surprisingly outrebounded, 31-30. Kalin Lucas, playing despite a sprained ankle, was the Spartans' only other player in double figures with 12 points.


--Michigan State lost both games last week, to Wisconsin and Illinois, marking the Spartans' first two-game losing streak in two years. The last time it happened, Michigan State lost at Purdue and at Indiana on Feb. 12 and Feb. 16, 2008. The loss to Illinois on Feb. 6 broke a five-game Michigan State winning streak in the series -- which is now tied at 54 apiece.

--Illinois coach Bruce Weber compared Michigan State sophomore F Draymond Green with Charles Barkley after Green went off for 17 points and 16 rebounds. Tom Izzo said of Green: "He's a warrior, man, he's just a warrior. He just grits his teeth and doesn't care about all the flash and dash. He is the perfect Spartan. He's just a blue-collar workhorse and I'm gonna ride him like a jack ass.
... Winning matters to him, it really does."

ON THE SPOT: Where has the defense gone? Durrell Summers isn't playing much of it, which explains why he didn't play in the second half of Tuesday's loss to Purdue. Tom Izzo isn't using his freshman centers, so teams are exploiting the Spartans inside. And with Kalin Lucas ailing on a sprained right ankle, teams are getting more dribble penetration than usual. If Lucas' lateral movement is as limited on Saturday at Penn State, the Spartans will have major trouble containing super-fast guard Talor Battle. Look for Korie Lucious to guard Battle for much of the day.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought for the most part that was an old-fashioned whooping." -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, after the 67-49 loss at Wisconsin.


SEASON RECAP: Michigan State sits alone in first place in the Big Ten at 9-2 entering the week. The 9-0 start in league play marks the best in school history. The Spartans started 4-0 in Big Ten road games, giving them a program-best stretch of 12 wins in 13 Big Ten road games. Michigan State's five losses came against good competition away from home -- at North Carolina and Texas, vs. Florida in Atlantic City, then at Wisconsin and Illinois.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Kalin Lucas, G Chris Allen, G Durrell Summers, F Raymar Morgan, F Delvon Roe. Key Subs -- F Draymond Green, G Korie Lucious, C Garrick Sherman, C Derrick Nix

Michigan State 79, Northwestern 70
Wisconsin 67, Michigan State 49
Illinois 78, Michigan State 73
Purdue 76, Michigan State 64

at Penn State, Saturday, Feb. 13
at Indiana, Tuesday, Feb. 16
vs. Ohio State, Sunday, Feb. 21
at Purdue, Sunday, Feb. 28


--G Chris Allen continues his up-and-down season. He had scored six points in three games before a 15-point outburst at Illinois on Feb. 6. On Tuesday against Purdue, Allen came up a point shy of his career high with 21 points. He played a career-high 34 minutes and tied a career high with four 3-pointers. Allen hasn't had back-to-back double figures games since early January.

--Senior F Raymar Morgan is disappearing at a bad time. Since exploding for 20 of his team's 57 points in a win at Michigan, Morgan has 22 points in four games. He has taken a total of 22 shots in those games. With Kalin Lucas ailing, the Spartans need Morgan to do more, but so far he has not responded.

--Sophomore F Draymond Green had what Tom Izzo called one of the best individual performances he's seen in a loss at Illinois on Feb. 6, with 17 points, 16 rebounds and several crucial plays. Green showed the same heart Tuesday vs. Purdue, but he did not have his touch. Green suffered through a 1-for-13 shooting night, although he did have seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

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