Tom Izzo Urges Spartans To Step It Up After Lackluster Showing

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIJanuary 21, 2010

DETROIT - APRIL 04:  Draymond Green #23 of the Michigan State Spartans dunks against the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One thing is clear after Wednesday night's contest with Iowa—there's still some work that needs to be done.

After an impressive win over a competitive Illinois squad on Saturday, the Spartans followed with their worst game of the Big Ten season—barely edging out the Iowa Hawkeyes, 70-63.

Just when it looked like that Izzo's Spartans were well on their way to becoming more focused, they took a monumental step in the wrong direction.

Being able to close games will be crucial in the upcoming weeks if Izzo's clan hopes to win themselves another Big Ten title, and they're not even remotely close to being able to do so judging by their Wednesday night showing.

At one point, Iowa looked like it was slipping into a hangman's noose—and the Spartans were getting ready to kick the block from beneath its feet. The Hawkeyes were down by 15 points early in the second half, but they were far from merely giving in to the conference's top-rated Spartans.

Matt Gatens, Iowa's sensational sophomore, led offensively with 17 points. The balanced scoring attack, great guard-play and "never-say-die" attitude nearly handed Michigan State its first Big Ten loss.

Shooting 64 percent from the charity stripe will not win games, especially in March.

Kalin Lucas simply needs to apply some stick-em to his hands and remember that a point-guard is supposed to distribute the ball, not turn it over.

Although they didn't eclipse the 20 turnover mark like in games past, the Spartans did cough-up the rock in the most inopportune moments (the last four minutes).

There are a few fundamentals that will push the Spartans over the hump. This "hump" is the less-than-impressive three-point shooting (just 25 percent vs. Iowa) and Chris Allen's lack of "putting the biscuit in the basket." Allen went 2-for-6. His stroke should be featured on a milk carton saying, "Have you seen me?"

Once thought of as one of the future pieces to a championship team, Allen appears to be placing himself on the back-burner, allowing other (younger) teammates to step up and take charge.

Durrell Summers' struggles are becoming a thing of the past, and that's a good thing. Summers shot over 50 percent from the field, scored 12 points, and has a little spring in his step.

Leadership goes along way. It's a cliche, but phrases become cliches because they are usually true.

Kalin Lucas, it's your team, so act like it. 4-for-11 isn't excusable, not against Iowa.

In an effort to stay positive, this must be said: The Spartans are still the Big Ten's team to beat, no matter how it's sliced and diced.

Are the Spartans the clear-cut favorite to win the Big Ten? Of course they are. It's theirs to lose.