Michigan St.-Oakland Preview
Never has coach Tom Izzo been as disappointed in himself as he was following Michigan State's first defeat of the season that caused his squad to relinquish its No. 1 ranking.
After an extended break, the fifth-ranked Spartans look to bounce back when they face Oakland on Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Michigan State (7-1) didn't live up to its billing as the country's top-ranked team Dec. 4, shooting a season-worst 35.9 percent while never holding a lead in a 79-65 home loss to then-unranked North Carolina.
"I can't think of a time I've been more disappointed in myself. We looked like a softer team," Izzo said. "That solely falls on me, nobody else. We didn't follow the game plan and that's my job to hold them accountable."
Izzo attributed the defeat to lackluster efforts in practice recently, as it seemed simply a matter of time before a team caught up with the Spartans. After beating then-No. 1 Kentucky on Nov. 12, they survived close calls against Columbia, Portland and Oklahoma that had Izzo wondering if his team was worthy of the No. 1 ranking.
"There are times we are the No. 1 team in the nation," said center Matt Costello, who scored six points through flu-like symptoms. "When we focus in and play the way we did against Kentucky, there's not a team in the world that can beat us. But we don't play that way all the time. We play that way about 25 percent of the time."
Izzo said Adreian Payne has been battling plantar fasciitis, but the senior big man hit 6 of 10 from the field and scored 16 points despite appearing to be in obvious pain against the Tar Heels. Spartans top scorers Gary Harris and Keith Appling each shot 5 for 15.
"When you're the No. 1 team in the country, you're going to get everyone's best shot," Appling said. "They hit us with their best shot early, and we didn't respond."
The Spartans had nine days off due to finals, and they'll look to get back on track against an Oakland team that has dropped all 11 meetings in the series.
The Golden Grizzles (2-8) have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, and Michigan State will be the fourth Top 25 team they have faced after losses last month at North Carolina, UCLA and Gonzaga.
Oakland is coming off an 81-54 defeat at Indiana on Tuesday as it shot 32.2 percent. Senior Travis Bader is averaging a team-best 20.1 points, but he went 2 of 15 from the field and missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts while finishing with 11 points.
Greg Kampe, whose 30 years as coach marks the nation's third-longest tenure behind Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, is happy to face the Spartans away from East Lansing. This game is closer to the campus of Oakland than Michigan State.
"To get Michigan State at a neutral site is a big deal," Kampe said. "We've played all these great teams, but they've all been on the road. It's still a neutral floor and it will be really good to see how we compete with the No. 5 team in the country."
The Spartans won last season's meeting 70-52, as Appling scored a game-high 20 points with Harris and reserve guard Travis Trice out with injuries.