Tue, 02 Mar 2021

Michigan State looks to shake off rust in rematch vs. Rutgers

Field Level Media
28 Jan 2021, 06:55 GMT+10

The last time Michigan State and Rutgers played, it was a matchup of ranked teams on Jan. 5.

More than three weeks later, things have trended downward for both teams entering their Big Ten rematch on Thursday at Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J.

For Michigan State, it will actually be just the second game it has played since that first meeting with Rutgers and its first in 20 days.

Following a 55-54 home loss to Purdue on Jan. 8 that saw the Spartans blow a 17-point lead, Michigan State has had to postpone games against Iowa, Indiana and Illinois due to COVID-19 issues on the team.

Since the Purdue game, reserves Mady Sissoko, Steven Izzo and Davis Smith, and starter Josh Langford, have all tested positive for COVID-19.

Assistant coach Dane Fife also tested positive.

On his radio show, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said he had 10 players available for practice on Monday but that the team was eager to get back into game action.

It's just a matter of how his team will look after such a long layoff, especially coming off a gut-wrenching loss at home to Purdue.

"That's a good question nobody knows the answer to," Izzo said. "The first week, we got to get a little rest, and that might have been good. Then, by the time of the second week and now the third week, everybody will handle that differently."

After a hot start to the season, Michigan State has dropped to 8-4 overall, 2-4 in conference play, and all of a sudden looks like a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament after being ranked as high as No. 4 earlier in the season.

On the other side, the 68-45 loss at Michigan State was the second in a five-game losing streak for Rutgers that dropped the Scarlet Knights out of the rankings.

Rutgers did have a rebound performance in its last game though, earning a 74-70 win at Indiana to improve to 8-6 overall and 4-6 in the conference.

Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell made some lineup changes before the game against Indiana, inserting Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell into the starting lineup and bringing Jacob Young and Montez Mathis off of the bench.

Pikiell also gave Geo Baker more reign to run the offense as point guard, and Baker delivered to the tune of 19 points and five assists.

"I liked how we played," Pikiell said. "It helped us on the backboards. I liked how the guys came off of the bench and responded. You make changes when you feel like there is a need for it, and we were not getting off to good starts at the beginning of games."

--Field Level Media

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