Michigan State beat Loyola (IL) Saturday afternoon by a score of 73-61 at home. Spartans big man Adreian Payne turned in a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Freshman sensation Gary Harris led all Michigan State scorers with 20 points, including 5 three pointers.
However, this was not a win to be proud of. Michigan State had too much trouble for a team that has such a talent advantage.
Loyola has some nice pieces, like Ben Averkamp. Averkamp was fantastic, scoring 25 points with 8 rebounds. Loyola played very well for much of the game, going on big runs that kept them in the game. Halfway through the first half, with Michigan State up 25-16, and the game looking like a possible blowout, the Ramblers went on a 14-0 run. They showed great energy and executed well. On offense Loyola was patient, and created open three point shot opportunities. The Spartans were sloppy, turning the ball over and fouling. This run kept the Ramblers in the game, with the lead in to the second half.
The Spartans did pull away in the second half, eventually winning by double digits. Their superior athleticism and talent eventually won out. After what must have been a very angry Tom Izzo halftime speech, they came out with a terrific defensive effort. They disrupted Loyola’s offense, not letting them create the shots they wanted. This created turnovers, which led to easy baskets, and easy offense.
Michigan State fans will say that a win is a win. That is true, and obviously they should be grateful to not have been upset after how they played. But, there is a very alarming trend with Michigan State. This was not the first time that the Spartans have played down to the level of poor competition. They narrowly beat Boise State, at home a few weeks ago by 4, as well as Louisiana-Lafayette by 3. It is understandable for a big time team like Michigan State to lose their focus and not show up for a small-school team. It happens every year, for a lot of teams, where they go out and assume they will win because of the name on the front of the jersey against a lower level team. They usually come back after a bad start and end up with a convincing win. Michigan State has not done that. They have not lost one of these games yet, but it is still alarming that this keeps happening.
If Michigan State is going to have trouble with Boise State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Loyola, they will be in for a rude awakening when conference play starts soon. A win is a win, but Izzo has a lot of work to do with this team.