With about 1:10 left in the game, Michigan State basketball led Portland by nine points. And then something shifted. The Pilots ran a full-court press and Michigan State just couldn’t seem to break it effectively.
Both Joey Hauser and AJ Hoggard did what they’ve done all year so far, turning the ball over on inbounds plays to get opposing teams back into games.
That nine-point lead over Portland melted down to one point within the next 30 seconds. Michigan State possessed the ball with a 78-77 lead and 40 seconds remaining and they couldn’t score, giving Portland the ball back with under 10 seconds left in the game.
Fortunately, the Pilots rushed a last-second shot and Michigan State was able to bat the ball away with no time left to escape with a win.
This is a concerning trend.
Michigan State basketball has struggled to close games this year
Heck, Michigan State football, too, has had this issue, fumbling away a huge lead against Indiana in the second-to-last week of the season. This has been an issue for both programs.
But right now, we’re talking hoops.
The Spartans opened the season with a fairly comfortable win over Northern Arizona and then followed it up with their first failure to close out a game: losing to Gonzaga by a point after leading by 12 in the second half.
And then Michigan State beat Kentucky in two overtimes before another failure to close out a game, blowing a 16-point lead against Villanova in the final eight minutes to hold on for a one-point win. Then Michigan State lost to Alabama without Malik Hall and Jaden Akins before nearly choking in the final minutes against both Oregon and Portland.
The Spartans led Oregon by a comfortable-ish margin late, but Will Richardson made things interesting and MSU only won by four. They also led Portland by 12 late in the second half and then nine with just over a minute left and the Pilots had the ball with a chance to win in the final seconds. This is a concerning trend and Izzo needs to figure it out.
Once Michigan State learns how to close games, it’ll be scary.