Smothering defense, timely shooting, and senior leadership were the difference in this game. After reading that description you would figure the Michigan State Spartans to be the winners. Instead it was the UConn Huskies who came out on top beating the Michigan State Spartans with their own game plan and advancing to the Final Four with a 60-54 win.
The Spartans looked as if they were playing in cement shoes from the very beginning of the game and were down by 10 points early. Michigan State was able to rally and take 25-21 lead into half time but a lack of energy on both ends of the court. The Spartans were also sloppy with the ball committing 16 turnovers, most of those leading to fast break points.
Sloppy and uninspired play are a bad recipe for a team hoping to head to the Final Four. Especially when the opponent is playing for redemption in front of a Madison Square Garden crowd packed with Huskie fans.
In the end it was the Spartans that looked inexperienced and the Huskies that held their composure.
After the game, Tom Izzo was asked if it was disappointing talking to his team. “Especially since we didn’t play our best game” Izzo said in reference to the Spartans. “Not to take anything way from them (UConn)…they played very hard”
Tom Izzo’s characterization of his teams performance is a very polite understatement.
With exception of Gary Harris (22 points), the Spartans were terrible on the offensive end. The UConn defense shut Adreian Payne down in the paint forcing him to take the majority of his shots on the perimeter. Payne was only 4 of 14 form the field and 10 of those shots came from beyond the arc. Payne finished with 13 points representing the only other Spartan beside Gary Harris to eclipse double digits.
So ends a disappointing season for the Spartans whose National Championship expectations fell short against a team they should have beaten in the Elite 8.
Now Tom Izzo and the Spartans will turn their attention to replacing players like Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling before next season.