MINNEAPOLIS — All the experience in the world couldn’t save Michigan State from Texas Tech’s stifling defense Saturday night.
The Red Raiders held MSU to just 32 percent from the field in their 61-51 win. It was the first Final Four appearance in program history.
Troubles on the offensive end started almost immediately and continued throughout the first half — MSU scored 21 points and had seven turnovers, but went into the break down two points.
“I was concerned early. In fact, to be honest with you, I was ecstatic at halftime,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “I said, ‘we’re two down the way we played.’ I thought we had seven turnovers. We gave them the ball a couple times, meaning they just took it from us.”
The Spartans shot just 15-of-47 from the field for a total of 51 points, both season-lows.
Junior point guard Cassius Winston is typically the motor that makes the Spartans’ offense run, but he spent Saturday night fighting off defenders. It took 16 shots for him to score 16 points, and he only had two assists to go with four turnovers.
“They did a good job of full rotating. They switched really well, made it hard to get into the post and things like that,” Winston said. “Kept you on the sidelines. Their defense is really, really good, forced you into some tough situations to make plays.”
He said he felt prepared for what he was going to see from the defense from studying film, but the amount of deflections and carelessness with the ball did the Spartans in.
“It was right about what we expected. We were prepared. They were good at it,” Winston said. “They got their hands on a lot of balls. We could have been a lot better, though. I think part of it was us being casual with the basketball or not being strong enough, not executing well enough.”
Senior guard Matt McQuaid got off to a hot start for MSU, making three three-pointers in the first few minutes of play. He would finish with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
McQuaid was tasked with guarding Texas Tech’s best perimeter players and creating offense for a team struggling for points. At one point in the second half, he had to leave the game due to cramping, which Izzo said came on during a missed three-point attempt.
McQuaid wasn’t willing to use a lack of energy as an excuse for his performance after the game.
“There’s no real excuse for being tired in this game. You know, it’s the Final Four,” McQuaid said. “Coach always says play like there’s no tomorrow. There is no tomorrow now. I can’t be using tired as an excuse. I cramped up a little, but I felt like I got back in there, and I was good. I mean, I just — we just lost.”