EAST LANSING, Mi. (WEHT) – The Screaming Eagles fell 74-51 to the Spartans. In the loss, USI was outscored by 23 in the first half, but both teams racked up 37 points-a-piece in the second, proving to be a more even matchup than expected.
Head Coach Stan Gouard discussed the competitive nature of his team and how the early struggles set them up for late-game success. The ‘4 minute quarters’ are what the fourth-year head coach prides his success on. If his team can win the small battles between the media timeouts, those little wins translate to big ones.
“I just challenged them,” Gouard said. “I put it on my players. You’re letting the guy next to you down. When you put it in that perspective [the players] take it a little different than me always challenging those guys. We take notes like every other coach in America, during the game. Wrote down a few things we were struggling with, transition defense is one, fouls is another and second chance opportunities. And we got driven a lot so we had to do a better job in the second half.”
Early in the second half, a 12-0 run by the Screaming eagles cut the lead down to 16. Jack Mielke knocked down back-to-back triples to force legendary head coach Tom Izzo to take a timeout. The Junior dropped nine points, all on makes from distance. He was accompanied by junior Jordan Tillmon’s 10 points and senior Nolan Causwell’s seven point, seven rebound performance against some of the best big-men in the country.
While there was good to take from this game, there is just as much bad to learn from. The Screaming Eagles allowed 38 points in the paint and 23 fast break points. Gouard knew–and it was visible–that USI could not matchup with the size, nor the pure athletic ability of the Spartans.
“This is a different level of toughness with these guys,” Gouard said. “This is big boy basketball, this is a big team. A lot different than in our league. Our guys are not as strong. We think we’re fast but [Michigan State] does a great job with their lateral movement. Our smallest guard, [Jack] Campion, does a great job in our league and even at St. Louis getting by his opponent. But tonight, the lateral movement and upper-body strength of their guards really bothered us.”
With another “buy-in” game in Duke on Friday, Nov. 24, the Screaming Eagles will have another chance to improve against a top-5 team in the AP Top-25 poll. But first, they have two at home with a chance to get back to .500.
USI will play Chicago State on Sunday, Nov, 12 at 2:30 p.m. CT.