Poor perimeter defense, foul trouble and the lack of two major offensive rebounders led to the Michigan State men’s basketball team’s first conference loss of the season, Saturday night. MSU lost to archival Big Ten rival Michigan 80-75 at the Breslin Center.
After a sensational first half, MSU broke down while defending the long ball and felt the absence of senior Adrean Payne and forward Branden Dawson.
Here are four positives the Spartans can takeaway from the loss:
1. The Spartans can hang in “the big game”
In easily the largest test of the season, MSU responded and nearly defeated its most hated rival. The energy in the Breslin Center was unmatched from the opening tip-off. After a brief slow start, the Spartans regained their composure and went blow-for-blow with the Wolverines by halftime. Win or lose, These are the types of games that prepare you for March in a way no other competition can.
2. The Spartan faithful can count on Gary Harris
We knew this all along, but Harris proved Saturday night that he is the heart and soul of the team. With Payne and Dawson sitting on the bench with injury, the spotlight fell directly on Harris. The weight of the most anticipated college basketball game of the week was on shoulders. Harris never faltered. He hustled, scored, played defense and did everything he could to give Sparty a chance to win. Sparty came up just short, and it was anyone but his fault.
3. The Spartans have the ability to play solid team defense
Much to the delight of head coach Tom Izzo, the Spartan defense looked the best it has this season in the win over Michigan. The ability to do this on a consistent basis is what has made other Big Ten teams like Northwestern majorly successful through the first half of the conference schedule. The Spartans stingy team defense kept the Wolverines at bay for much of the second half. But foul trouble and poor perimeter defending cost MSU the game.
4. Alvin Ellis has a bright future and the ability to hit big time shots.
Ellis hit a crucial 3-pointer to give the Spartans a 57-55 lead with just under six minutes remaining. Ellis often plays with/against Appling in practice and is seen by many as the future of the Spartan backcourt. His ability to succeed not just in a big game but in key moments of a big game is exciting for MSU fans. He might become a big contributor down the stretch as home comes off the bench.