Another road trip, another loss.
Faced with a motivated Illinois team charged by the emotion of Senior Night and the fight to earn a postseason bid, Michigan State dropped the contest Wednesday night, 73-70, in Champaign, Ill.
MSU coach Tom Izzo praised his team’s resilience. Faced with an 11-point deficit with 10:17 left in the game, the Spartans battled back to within 1 point with less than a minute to play, but couldn’t ultimately get over the hump.
But Izzo also had plenty of criticism to nullify the good. Here’s what he had to say on the Spartan Sports Network about the performance.
Initial thoughts: “I was pleased with how we fought. We didn’t quit. I was disappointed in the way we played in the first half, and then when we got the lead in the second half, we did not do the things you need to do and execute the way you need to execute. There was a couple of bad shots when we were 2, 3 down. That’s a shame.”
What led Michigan State to post just 9 assists on 25 field goals: “I credit the (Illinois) defense some, but I definitely blame the (Spartans) offense a lot. That’s the first thing I said in the meeting room. We seem to get a little bit outside ourselves. I think that we learned that these young guys can’t stand prosperity a little bit, so we’ve got to do a better job.
“We’ve got to coach them better. We’ve got to coach them harder. We’ve got to do a better job. This game was a game that we were in a position to do some things, and they had a couple of runs had a couple of runs that were not good for us. We didn’t guard as well. We took some bad shots.”
On the Illinois defense: “They played pretty good defensively, but we shot 48 percent. That’s good enough to win. That’s good enough. It’s poor shot selection in critical times.”
On Miles Bridges’ missed layup attempt with the Spartans down 72-70 and 5 seconds to play: “We were trying to get that, but Miles had to — instead of going up and throwing it at the board — he’s got to get fouled. He’s getting a little better. He took it to the hole a couple of times. He’s putting the ball on the floor a lot better. I’m pleased with that, but in critical times, we got the right play, we got what we wanted, we got Miles in the position we wanted, (but) he’s just got to realize he’s got to draw fouls and not throw the ball at the backboard. It was part of the learning curve.”
The message in the locker room: “My message was I was disappointed. I thought that after the Wisconsin game (an 84-74 win Sunday), I worried the next day, are we gonna get fat and sassy? Are we gonna get complacent? Do we think we accomplished something? That’s what young teams do, and we tried to make sure that didn’t happen. But I thought the focus tonight, at times, wasn’t where it needed to be, which means we weren’t moving the ball like we were supposed to. That’s why the assists were down. And we didn’t make some critical plays in some critical times. That was part of the execution.”
On his team’s execution in a tough environment: “Now at other times, we did an unbelievable job of executing. So learning, learning, learning. Story of the year. It’s still there, but we’ve got a chance to do some great things yet. We competed in a tough environment. As everywhere we go, it was Shirt Day and Fan Day and Pom-Pom Day and Senior Day here. I think we got shook a little bit, but we bounced back in the second half and didn’t quit, and I’m going to take that as a compliment and find a way to go to Maryland, and we’re gonna find a way to win a game.”