|No. 11 Michigan St. hopes to clean up vs. ULM|
Michigan State has been far too charitable for Coach Tom Izzo's liking during its first two games.
The No. 11 Spartans are handing over the ball too much and giving opponents too many free looks at the basket. He hopes to start cleaning up those mistakes during a home game against Louisiana Monroe on Wednesday.
Michigan State lost its opener to top-ranked Kansas 92-87, then overpowered Florida Gulf Coast at home Sunday 106-82.
Izzo is troubled that his team is averaging 17 turnovers, leading to 18.5 points per game off them. The first two opponents have shot 45.0 percent overall and 42.9 percent on 3-point tries.
That's totally unacceptable to Izzo.
"There's a couple of issues," he said. "Turnovers that are leading 20 and 18 points, points off turnovers are freebies. Hard to defend that. Then, 45 percent defensively right now would be the worst in my career, so we've got to do a better job of that.
"Some of it is we're just not playing as hard and focused. But there's no question we have to get better defensively. That's what this week will be for, both in practice and in games. We're going to put a big emphasis on it."
Izzo can't complain too much about his offense. The Spartans are shooting 49.3 percent overall and 43.5 percent from long range. All of their starters are averaging in double figures, led by junior shooting guard Joshua Langford (18.0 points per game). Junior center Nick Ward bounced back from a disappointing opener to equal his career high with 25 points against the Eagles. He also contributed 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
"I'm really proud of what he's done," Izzo said. "His body is really good, I mean he's scoring down there, he's dunking with ease. He is working on his free throws more and more."
Michigan State has also done a good job of making the right pass. It recorded 33 assists on 41 baskets against Florida Gulf Coast.
"It speaks volumes of how unselfish everyone is, and we're always moving the ball," Langford said. "Once again, even that (the assists are) such a good stat, we still have plays where we were stagnant, and we didn't move the ball in, where we could've gotten better shots."
ULM (2-1) recorded victories over Jackson State and Millsaps before falling at Texas 65-55 on Monday. The Warhawks, who are in the midst of a five-game road trip, kept pace with the Longhorns until Texas reeled off 16 straight points in the second half.
ULM's leading scorer and senior guard Daishon Smith (17 points per game) sat out because of a hamstring injury and the offense suffered without him. The Warhawks shot 38.6 percent from the field and made only four 3-pointers. Texas used a zone defense in the second half that threw them out of sync.
"I wish I had to do it all over again. I would've done it differently," Warhawks coach Keith Richard said. "I would have told 'em, 'Move it, move it, shoot a 3.'"
Sophomore guard Michael Ertel and senior forward Travis Munnings are the team's other main offensive threats, averaging 14.7 points.