Michigan State basketball defeated Iowa, 86-60: 3 quick shots

1. Off. For MSU, this has the elements of free fall.

Iowa City, Iowa – Remember the days when Michigan State’s basketball season felt like a swing?

The Spartans longed for those days. What’s happening now has elements of free fall: five defeats in six games, three defeats in a row, Tuesday night’s 86-60 loss in Iowa is the worst.

I got blitzkrieg MSU. But it also seems that the team can’t do anything about it. By late in the second half, the Iowa students were chanting “NIT,” indicating that the Spartans would miss the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1997.

That’s still not likely, given MSU’s record (18-9, 9-7 in the Big Ten). The NCAA Championship will need to find another 68 deserving teams, and if you start looking closely, there are others in worse shape. If MSU wins another game—even Maryland in the final at home—the Spartans will likely be aged 19-12 overall, with 10 Big Ten victories, no matter what happens in the conference cycle. Remember, how the team finishes in the last 10 games is no longer supposed to be part of the equation for NCAA field selection. However, this has often gotten ugly lately.

Michigan State University a team of two shooting rangers can’t shoot for a while. Freshman Max Christie finished 2 for 11 on Tuesday. Gabe Brown was 0 for 7. Together they were 1 for 9 from over the arc in just 44 minutes. Brown was restricted to 20 minutes for his second fewest games of the season (the least when he wasn’t in serious trouble). 24 minutes of Christie’s has been a low season for him.

The Spartans are a good free-throwing team and never reach the goal line. They took four free throws on Tuesday. Iowa got 20 and made 18. That’s the approach. In five Spartans defeats in these past six games, they have averaged 10 free throws per game. Their opponents averaged 18.8.

MSU has become a vaulting team that doesn’t hit enough jump shots to be. It is a team that does not defend or bounce hard enough to prevent it from collapsing against good teams in hostile places.

Ezzo said after Tuesday’s loss that changes were likely coming, though he declined to specify them. It’s not hard to read between the lines.

“We have this problem that every time we get (the deficit) to eight or nine, we take a bad shot, we make a bad change, and so we will probably change a few things,” Ezo said. “At the same time, I thought we had a good performance from both guards (AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker).”

And later…

“It was[Eowa’s]3-point shot (12 to 28, though it looked worse) and our lack of offensive productivity, we got to 10 points there and then Marcus[Marcus Bingham]would go one game – one of the top key (and travel)… We have to fix that.”

I think you’ll see Julius Marple start. Izzo praised him and bit his tongue Bingham. Somewhat. I think you’ll also see Gabe Brown come off the bench – like La Travis Trace, when he was struggling during his senior year, although it wasn’t like that.

I don’t know if there are good answers for this season. The core of this group mostly just needs time, out of season. But you can’t keep escaping from the same crew in the same order.

This, Malik Hall said, was “embarrassing” for the 3-point defense in particular, he said. I think he was also telling us about a team that lost some confidence while grappling with the teeth of its schedule, a team that faces a string of all-ten caliber players — Iowa’s Keegan Murray on Tuesday — and has no one king.

“I think after you lose five out of six, you know, if that happens, you’re honestly going to hesitate a little bit as a team,” Hall said of the Spartans’ psyche.

“We will get better,” Ezzo said at the end of his press conference. “We didn’t give up. We’ll be back.”

we will see.

2. Talkin’ Keon Coleman, man

Keon Coleman’s three minutes of play in the first half on Tuesday night is the reason for Tom Izu’s desperation. He also said good things about Coleman – that he was the man the coaches turned to at that moment when nothing else worked. I’m pretty sure Ezo wasn’t planning on playing Coleman Tuesday (or this season, for that matter). But with 6:25 left until halftime and the Spartans trailing 37-22, it was Coleman’s turn, thrown into a game that didn’t go well quickly. However, the game was not a lost cause at that point. It was too early for that. Ezzo was praying for a spark. Coleman received the call.

Coleman, one of the MSU footballers joining the team in January, didn’t score a statistic in his exact three-minute stint in the first half — his first playing other than a blasting finish. It was not due to a lack of effort. He nearly ran over Tyson Walker after a defensive bounce. He also had a bouncing bucket at the end of the attack, unable to block the bouncing ball. He played hard from both sides and barely touched the ball when attacking. In trash time, he played another 2 minutes and hit 3.

But let’s be clear, Coleman won’t be the answer this season. But being part of Izzo’s search for an answer, Tuesday, talks about his strides in practice and perhaps, after next football season, if he plays the hoops again, he could find a role.

3. AJ Hoggard’s unofficial mission is clear

There are other issues with MSU’s crime now before it gets to AJ Hoggard. But one of the problems other Spartans have with finding space to lead is that the guy defending Hoggard doesn’t respect his jump shot and assists, and dangles in the fairway. It happened several times on Tuesday night, with Tony Perkins of Iowa deterring driving or forcing her to pull over. Max Christie on two occasions looked like he wanted to go, but could see Perkins waiting. Again, while MSU was swinging the ball fast, the normal way to play basketball was to swing it back to Hoggard, the open man at the top of the switch. But it’s not a threat from there, so MSU either ended up taking a tougher shot or Hoggard had to reset the stagnant attack that wasn’t moving (another issue).

Hoggard has made strides this season. It is a hard cover for the slope while driving. We saw it again on Tuesday. He’s only had 62 assists and 16 turns in his last 10 matches. Still some pain. But few of them. He has a chance to be a Hekova player in the next two years at MSU. But he needs that jump shot to become serviceable to the point that leaving it unlocked is no longer part of the opponents game plan.

Contact Graham Couch at gcouch@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter: @graham_couch.

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