Spartans’ NCAA streak in peril as they host Penn State

NCAA Men's Basketball

Michigan State has a lot of work to do to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture. That’s not a bad thing, according to coach Tom Izzo.

The Spartans snapped a four-game losing streak — albeit in ugly fashion Saturday — with a 66-56 home victory over Nebraska. They’ll look to keep things going in the right direction Tuesday when they host Penn State in East Lansing.

At 9-7 overall and 3-7 in the Big Ten, Michigan State is in serious jeopardy of seeing its streak of 22 consecutive appearances in the tournament come to an end.

“There is a little pressure on us and I kind of like that,” Izzo said. “I think this team needs to have a little pressure on them. Maybe I need to have a little pressure on me.”

The pressure will keep building if the Spartans don’t play better than they did against the Cornhuskers, who were coming off a nearly month-long layoff due to COVID-19 issues in their program.

Michigan State committed 22 turnovers and shot 33.3 percent in the second half.

Izzo’s team has also been affected by the coronavirus, including several postponements. It was originally scheduled to play arch-rival Michigan on Saturday.

“It is a strange time. (Saturday), I did not think we were ready to play,” he said. “I thought we practiced pretty well, I just didn’t think we were as mentally into the game early. The good news is that it proved to rear its ugly head, when you turn the ball over that much that usually tells you you’re not mentally into the game like you need to be.”

Joshua Langford led the Spartans with a season-high 18 points. He’s averaging 15.7 points over the last three games.

The Nittany Lions (7-8, 4-7) are already on the upswing, having won four of their last six. They held Maryland without a field goal in the last 7:32 in a 55-50 triumph on Friday.

“It was a rock fight there for a while. I thought our guys really stayed with each other and kept defending and rebounding and let the offense come and let it happen,” interim coach Jim Ferry said. “Guys were making effort plays all over the court.”

All of the recent wins have come at home. Penn State is 0-6 in Big Ten road games this season.

“I’m not saying it’s a must win at all but we want to win one in the league on the road,” Ferry said. “It’s really challenging and we have that in front of us.”

–Field Level Media

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