Coach Tom Izzo has donned many costumes for Midnight Madness at Michigan State: A member of Kiss, Iron Man, an astronaut and a Spartan from the movie “The 300.”
Coming off a shocking loss, though, Izzo may be channeling his inner Grinch as the Spartans – all but certain to drop out of the Top 25 when the poll is released Monday – try to regroup in a home matchup with The Citadel.
While the 25th-ranked Spartans (8-4) knew they would have to adjust without injured starting forward Branden Dawson – who is also going to miss this contest due to a fractured wrist he suffered Wednesday against Eastern Michigan – no one had any idea the absence of his 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game would loom so large Saturday. Michigan State was stunned 71-64 in overtime by Texas Southern of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Matt Costello had 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench and Denzel Valentine added 15 points, but a Michigan State team which entered shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range went 4 of 21 from beyond the arc. It also allowed Texas Southern to shoot 53.2 percent after holding its previous three opponents under 40 percent.
“I felt sorry for (my players),” Izzo said. “I did not work them like I normally do. We didn’t practice as hard – too worried about my little guys getting tired. … That was a coaching loss, and I take full responsibility for it … “
He also vowed Sunday would be a grueling practice session his team likely won’t forget the rest of the season, sarcastically adding, ”I’m going to find out what the NCAA will legally allow me to practice tomorrow, and then I’m going to probably exceed it.”
He hopes that will go a long way toward Michigan State avoiding losing consecutive home games to non-conference opponents for the first time since defeats to Temple and Detroit on Dec. 4 and 13, 1997. That’s the only such occurrence since Izzo took over in 1995.
Costello has averaged 13.3 points and 6.8 rebounds his last four games coming off the bench, and Izzo may keep him as a supersub despite freshman Melvin Clark Jr. averaging 8.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in the four contests he’s started in Dawson’s spot.
The Citadel (4-6), also playing its second game in three days, is looking to bounce back from a hard-fought 64-61 loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Ashton Moore hit seven of the Bulldogs’ season-high 13 3-pointers and scored a season-high 27 points, but he also had a potential tying attempt from beyond the arc blocked in the final seconds.
”I thought the last shot wasn’t a bad look considering the situation,” coach Chuck Driesell said. “I’ve got my best player, my best 3-pointer shooter, and he had a decent look.”
Moore is averaging a team-high 17.1 points while senior center P.J. Horgan is the best interior threat, contributing 12.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The Citadel is 0-49 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including a 79-65 defeat to then-No. 19 Michigan State on Dec. 17, 2008. It will be playing its first ranked foe since a 71-50 defeat at then-No. 23 Texas A&M on Dec. 19, 2009.