Michigan State Upset 55-53 By the Syracuse Orange

Little Caesars Arena

Detroit, MI

The #4/5 Michigan State Spartans had a massive home crowd advantage against a team playing their third game in five days with virtually no or certainly limited depth.  And they were upset by the Syracuse Orange 55-53.

If you would have looked at the Syracuse stat sheet you would have been certain that the Spartans won the ball game.  MSU held the Orange to 36% shooting from the floor and 13% from the three.  MSU dominated the boards 51-30 and had a 75% advantage in bench points.  But the numbers lie.

Syracuse despite nearly no depth held Michigan State to 26% shooting and against a team like MSU that loves to run, they matched the Spartans with a terrible two points off of the fast break.  In the end, the Spartans got great shots, they simply couldn’t hit open shots and wouldn’t attack the rim to counter it.

The Spartan Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo said of the loss, “And we got beat because we couldn’t make a shot. And I thought we had some good shots. It was really disappointing. We didn’t shoot very well from the free-throw line and some of those early were one-and-ones, which means it’s worse than the stat shows.”

A distraught Spartan star Miles Bridges reflected on the emotional loss, “Probably the saddest I’ve ever been in my life. I wanted to send my best friend, Tum Tum, out the right way, and our seniors, Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling. And unfortunately, I couldn’t do that. That was my only goal for this year, and I’m sad I couldn’t do it, but life goes on. And — I don’t know, just life goes on.”

Almost certainly to be a captain next year, PG Cassius Winston said, “Almost anything could be solved or fixed through hard work. If you dedicate your time, put the hours in, results will show. This team, you know, we got better throughout the year. We just got better and better. It was no secret formula. Players got better.  Xavier Tillman got better throughout the year and there was no secret to it. He worked hard. So this summer, it’s another step for me to take. It’s a whole other level I can reach. And the recipe is just going to be me putting that time in and working on it.”

It was a devastating loss for a Spartan team that entered the season with a national title or bust mentality.  Miles Bridges turned down millions from the NBA to come back and the emotion was tangible.  I was in the locker room in 2016 when the Spartans were upset by Middle Tennessee State.  That was the worst locker room I have ever been in.  Until tonight.  Izzo echoed by sentiments saying, “I was in that 2016 locker room and that was the worst I have ever experienced.  Until tonight.  This one topped it.”

When asked how he would remember this team Bridges said, “Just how much fun we had. Everything that was thrown at us, we still had fun. And I love every guy that’s on my team. That’s why I’m so hurt right now. I couldn’t ask for a better team. And I’ll have memories that will last a lifetime.”

Senior Ben Carter played 23 minutes compared to Jaren Jackson, Jr. (3J) only getting 15.  Izzo explained it saying, “He was in foul trouble the first half. And it’s different in the tournament. And the second half we just, Ben seemed to have a feel in there, which we knew he did. But it really was in the defensive end.”

Xavier Tillman played 22 minutes compared to Nick Ward getting 16.  Izzo went to pontificate about the numbers for his bigs.  “Not clutch; they played pretty well. It wasn’t that Jaren didn’t. It’s just that sometimes the youth — we did some different things defensively than we’ve been doing that worked.  We didn’t jump those ball screens and stay up high on them. We kind of feathered them and made sure that, for the most part, Battle didn’t get to the rim. I thought we did a very good job on Battle, didn’t give up the 3s. We ran them off the 3s because we were helping with our bigs, and it was a bit of an adjustment for a couple of the bigs. And so we found some guys.”

He added, “And then the middle of the zone, Jaren is going to be really good in there, and right now Josh — Ben just had the experience to know what to do. And, man, we got some good looks. I don’t know how many assists he had, probably not many because nobody made any shots. Two. But we had good enough shots.  Listen, it never ends happy for all but one team. I’ve been in the finals. I got beat and felt bad. I’ve been in the first round of the Final Four and got beat and felt bad, and in the Elite Eight and got beat and felt bad. And the Sweet 16. And a couple of years ago I was in the first round and felt bad. That’s never going to change. But that’s not going to define who we are. What’s going to define who we are is what these kids went through this year and how they handled it. And that’s what’s going to define us.”

He continued, “And to me, that’s the only thing that matters in the end because I saw the facts of what they gave me, and I had great appreciation for the facts of what they went through and how they handled it.  And every Michigan State person can be a little upset with me; don’t be upset with them, because they did their job in a very difficult time and did it with class and humility.  And you will never, whether you’re a reporter following them or a fan cheering for them, you will never have better kids to appreciate than this group.”

A distraught Izzo finished saying, “So I appreciate all of you. I’m sorry to our fans who did such an incredible job here this weekend. We were all set to maybe get another shot at Duke, and yet Jim Boeheim and his team deserve all the credit in the world. They did their job. They did it in a hostile environment. They played very solid. They played their style. They did not change. They just made a couple more free throws than we did. And that was the difference in the game.”

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