Michigan State Basketball: Report card for loss at Ohio State

Jan 7, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo in action against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Palestra. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 7, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo in action against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Palestra. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball suffered its second Big Ten loss of the season to Ohio State and here’s how the Spartans graded.

Sunday’s Michigan State vs Ohio State matchup was expected to be much different. The Spartans came in as the better team and Ohio State hadn’t won a Big Ten game yet this season, sitting at 0-4. However, the Buckeyes pulled out a five-point victory, leaving the Spartans questioning themselves.

Not much went right after the first four minutes of the game in which the Spartans made 6-of-6 baskets as Ohio State responded with a 20-5 run, putting Michigan State in a major hole. The Spartans gained some ground before halftime as Josh Langford hit a big three.

Michigan State still has plenty of work to do before the Indiana matchup this week in Bloomington and here’s what the report card from Sunday’s contest looks like.

Hint: It’s not pretty.

Bench: C-

There weren’t many positives to take away from the bench play in this one. Cassius Winston was supposed to provide a spark off the pine, but he looked like he’d regressed a bit, scoring one point for the second straight game and had two assists and a turnover.

Alvin Ellis III was the leading scorer off the bench with seven points, but he turned the ball over a couple of times and took some bad shots. He has taken a few major steps back since his performances to start Big Ten play.

Matt McQuaid seems to only be in the game to take pump-fakes, but the defense rarely bites. He had five points, but he seems scared to shoot.

Kyle Ahrens had a three-pointer in four minutes while Matt Van Dyk and Kenny Goins were scoreless and had three combined rebounds (all Goins) and a block (Van Dyk).

Jan 7, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44) high-fives guard Eron Harris (14) during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Palestra. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 7, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44) high-fives guard Eron Harris (14) during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Palestra. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: B+

Michigan State’s starters weren’t the issue in this one. In fact, this unit was arguably the reason why Michigan State held a lead early on, only to watch it get wiped away by the second-team offense after a mass substitution around the 16-minute mark.

Tum Tum Nairn only scored four points, but he had eight assists and looks to be holding on tightly to that starting point guard position. If he can drive to the hole and finish with more easy layups, the Spartan offense would be in great shape as teams would actually have to worry about him. However, he dribbles the air out of the ball for 20-25 seconds too much and Michigan State gets up a lousy shot.

Eron Harris seemed to be in the doghouse again for some reason despite scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting in 13 minutes. He needs to figure out how to stay on the floor long enough to have an impact.

Josh Langford might be the most improved player on the team. He had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes and continues to look like a viable offensive weapon. He’s got a sweet stroke from the perimeter as well.

Nick Ward had nine points and four rebounds but his four personal fouls seemed to do him in. He was getting mugged in the post all day and not getting any calls, but the Buckeyes played him aggressively and it paid off.

Lastly, Miles Bridges continues to show he’s back to full health. He had 24 points and nine rebounds of 9-of-12 shooting — that’s what you call efficiency. He did, however, have six turnovers.

Jan 11, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Eron Harris (14) has shot blocked by Minnesota Golden Gophers center Reggie Lynch (22) during the first half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 11, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Eron Harris (14) has shot blocked by Minnesota Golden Gophers center Reggie Lynch (22) during the first half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Rebounding: B

I’ll admit it, I was shocked to look at the final box score after the game and see that the Spartans won the rebounding battle. In fact, this was the second straight game that Michigan State came out on top in terms of rebounding and that has to make Tom Izzo feel pretty good.

It felt as if the Buckeyes were getting far too many second chances early on and they finished with  six offensive boards — most of them had to have come in the first half. However, the Spartans struggled to keep Trevor Thompson and Marc Loving off the boards as they combined for 15 rebounds and three offensive.

Nick Ward was aggressive on the boards in the second half but he seemed timid in the first, going up only to have it tipped away or snagged from his grasp. Miles Bridges is a guy who could easily get 8-10 rebounds per game, but he’s constantly guarding the perimeter and playing on the arc offensively so he doesn’t get in the post enough to grab boards.

This might have been one of the bright spots in the game, other than the sharpshooting, but the Spartans turned the ball over too much that it didn’t much matter.

Michigan State ended up out-rebounding the Buckeyes 32-28 and Bridges led the way with nine while Ward and Langford were second with four each. Kenny Goins only had three.

Jan 7, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Miles Bridges (22) celebrates a blocked shot with guard Joshua Langford (1) during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Palestra. Penn State won 72-63. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 7, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Miles Bridges (22) celebrates a blocked shot with guard Joshua Langford (1) during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Palestra. Penn State won 72-63. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: C+

Ohio State’s defense had been struggling mightily through conference play. In fact, the Buckeyes had allowed at least 75 points in each Big Ten loss and the Spartans couldn’t even reach the 70-point mark on Sunday after starting a red-hot 6-for-6 from the field.

After starting 6-of-6, the Spartans made just 5-of-17 and looked to cool off considerably before making a few shots heading into the half. Michigan State did manage to finish somewhat strong shooting the ball, making 50 percent of their shots in the game.

They were also 9-of-19 from long-range, but how do they not get a higher grade? Well, the shot clock management, and just overall game management, was pitiful. Michigan State had 17 turnovers, most were unforced, and ran the shot clock down to five seconds multiple times before even making a run at the basket — this caused multiple shot clock violations.

Clock management needs to improve asap.

Once again, free throw shooting was subpar, at best. The Spartans made just 8-of-14 shots from the line, which could have been the difference in this one. Getting to the line has been a struggle, but even making the free-bees when they’re given by the refs is no easy task. These guys need to desperately work on this part of the game moving forward.

Jan 11, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Miles Bridges (22) defends Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Eric Curry (24) during the second half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 11, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Miles Bridges (22) defends Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Eric Curry (24) during the second half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: C-

After holding Minnesota to just 47 points on 33 percent shooting from the field, Michigan State followed it up with one of its worst defensive performances of the year. No, the Spartans didn’t allow 80-plus points, but Ohio State did whatever it wanted, it seemed, after the 16-minute mark in the first half.

Must Read: MSU Basketball: 5 bold predictions for January

The Buckeyes were draining threes like it was their job and they finished with 10, making 44 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Ohio State looked like the better shooting team even though it had been struggling through Big Ten play.

Michigan State also only had one block and three steals, forcing a total of 11 turnovers. That’s not acceptable for a team that just stymied one of the more athletic squads in the conference four days earlier.

One bright spot was Nairn who stuck like glue to his guy around the floor, but far too often Michigan State lagged off the Buckeyes with the ball or hedged under a screen instead of over, leaving a wide open three-point shot to be taken.

Ohio State is not a deep team, only three guys came off the bench, and yet the starters didn’t look fatigued against the Spartans’ D, each of them scoring in double figures.

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