A big reason Michigan State won back to back Big Ten titles in ’09-’10 is their superior road record. The last two years MSU is 16-5 away from home. They had a school record 8 road wins in 2009, and followed it up with a 7-2 mark the following season.
However, this year outside of the Breslin Center has been a totally different story. The Spartans fell to the Illini in Champaign Tuesday night, in a game both teams needed in order to stay in the conference race.
The loss dropped State’s road record to 1-3 in 2010-11. Their only road win was at Northwestern on January 3rd. State is currently 12-6, 4-2 in conference, with all but one of their losses coming to a ranked opponent.
MSU’s second leading scorer, Durrell Summers, was benched tonight and at first glance you night read that sentence and quote the classic film Dodgeball: “Interesting strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for ‘em.”
But Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo made switch in order to make a statement.
“I liked his demeanor a little bit better. I didn’t like the one I saw the other day, but he’s going to have to keep earning his minutes, and become a better team guy, and I like what I saw in that respect. And if that continues, he’ll continue to play and if he doesn’t- he won’t,” Izzo said.
“Summers-time” may have been on the bench to begin tonight, but he still finished with the Spartans’ second most points scored and minutes played tonight.
Summers supposedly disobeyed his coach’s order to enter the game in the overtime win over Northwestern Saturday, and he has recently found himself in the doghouse. It may not be the only time he finds himself there this year.
Izzo shuffled his lineup yet again this year, changing the starting five for the first time in conference play. This gave highly heralded Adreian Payne (subbing for Summers) his first start in Big Ten play.
“I wasn’t disappointed with A.P.’s play, he just got caught in that first couple minutes, but with him and Dey-Dey in the positions that they were in. We gotta hurry up and get back with that lineup, but for us there’s always plug one hole and then another gets in the way,” Izzo said.
“I wouldn’t say it helped or hurt. It’s just a line-up so I don’t think it really had any change on the outcome,” Draymond Green said about State’s move from a smaller lineup to a big one.
Now State really needs to win their next one at #13 Purdue, or their tournament hopes will soon be referred to with “bubble status.” They have some nice wins over Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but their losses are piling up quickly. And they still have at least six games left with teams that figure to be ranked.
“Must-win, we gotta find a way to pull it out,” Kalin Lucas said about their next contest.
He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbankFollow paulmbanks