Spartan Men Fall To 11th In National Polls

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Tom Izzo ripped his basketball team after a 40-point win four weeks ago but couldn't fault Michigan State's effort in a humbling 43-36 loss at Iowa on Saturday.
The Spartans (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) fell from sixth to 11th in the rankings this week and slipped a game behind Indiana and Wisconsin in a bid for their first Big Ten title since 2001.
But Izzo isn't changing his lineup or installing a different offense for Tuesday's visit from Ohio State and Saturday's rematch with Minnesota.
"No question, that was a game we should've won," Izzo said of helping the Hawkeyes with 18 turnovers and a 10-minute scoring drought. "What I'm not going to do is panic after one loss and say everything needs to be changed. We were averaging more than 77 points a game and shooting 50 percent."
That only made Michigan State's lowest point total in 55 years tougher to comprehend, especially when Iowa trailed the Buckeyes 62-26 in Columbus three nights earlier. But a 29-4 disadvantage in free throws and a blown goaltending call that would have given the Spartans the lead didn't go unnoticed.
"You can say it was a lack of discipline or a lack of skill," Izzo said of a team that had beaten Missouri, Bradley and BYU in more hostile settings. "I can't fault our effort when we hold a team to 27 percent shooting and have an edge in rebounds. It was the unforced turnovers that killed us."
Izzo's staff broke down every mistake in surprisingly close wins over Minnesota and Purdue and in the shocker in Iowa City and found 37 unforced turnovers in their 53 squandered possessions.
"You hope that two-thirds of your turnovers are forced," Izzo said. "But we're a damn good team that isn't playing as well as it should. And as you're going to find out, Minnesota isn't so bad, Purdue isn't so bad, and the league isn't so bad."
Michigan State is well aware that the Buckeyes (12-4, 3-1) aren't bad, either, despite a 75-68 loss at Purdue on Saturday. And if a loss at Iowa was humiliating, a defeat at home might hurt even more.
"Last year we were almost scared, fighting every night for our tournament lives," senior center Drew Naymick said. "I don't want to say we're complacent now. But we've lost that edge and need to get it back by tomorrow night."
That sharpness needs to accompany the Spartans to the Twin Cities, too, especially since they have one win in their last 13 conference road games. But Izzo's main focus today is on defeating the Buckeyes and containing guard Jamar Butler, the Big Ten leader in assists and free throw percentage.
"They have a lot of players capable of making shots, but Butler is the straw that stirs the drink," Izzo said of a senior who has scored 32 points, then recorded double-figure assists and rebounds in the next game. "He has taken those guys under his wing and become one of the best guards in the league, if not the country."
Michigan State's preseason All-American, guard Drew Neitzel, is in the midst of a shooting slump. He is hitting just 27.3 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from three-point range in conference play.
"He puts a lot of pressure on himself and has dreams of where he wants to take the program, plus the goals he has for himself," Izzo said. "Subconsciously, he's thinking, 'If I'm going to show I can play at the next level, I've got to show that I can pass the ball.' That's great, but he was put on this planet to be a scorer. He still has to do those things this year. He has to be a little more selfish and get his mojo back."
After the Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson trip to Mexico was blamed for the Dallas Cowboys' defeat, Izzo quipped about Neitzel, "Thank God he doesn't have a girlfriend, so they don't have to blame her."


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