‘Reeling’ Michigan State faces tough contest at Penn State

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo admitted Monday that his team is “reeling” a bit at the moment.

Just a week ago, all wasn’t too bad with the Spartans, given they had come off a respectable 2-1 showing at the Phil Knight Invitational and were ranked No. 20 in the nation.

But the last two games have been disastrous, with a blowout loss at Notre Dame and a home loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten opener that pushed Michigan State (5-4, 0-1 Big Ten) out of the rankings.

The Spartans are searching for answers entering a road contest against Penn State on Wednesday at University Park, Pa.

“Our players, to be honest with you, are dead,” Izzo said.

Indeed, it has been a grueling schedule for Michigan State, which has already made two cross-country trips and played Gonzaga, Kentucky, Villanova, Alabama and Oregon.

Adding to the difficulty has been recent foot injuries to senior forward Malik Hall and sophomore guard Jaden Akins. The good news was that Akins returned to play against Northwestern, but he’s still hindered by conditioning as he works to get back to form.

“We just haven’t been as sharp,” Izzo said.

Things won’t get much easier for the Spartans, having to make a trip to Penn State and play an improved Nittany Lions team. Penn State is 6-2 overall heading into its Big Ten opener.

Unlike the Spartans, the Nittany Lions enter well-rested, having not played since suffering a 101-94, double-overtime loss at Clemson on Nov. 29.

“We had time to practice,” Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “I’m expecting us to be sharp on Wednesday when we play. We’ve focused on ourselves.”

Penn State has found success thanks in large part to good perimeter shooting. The Nittany Lions are shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range and averaging 76.9 points per game.

Jalen Pickett (16.1 points per game) and Seth Lundy (13.6 ppg) lead Penn State in scoring.

This will be the only regular-season meeting between the Spartans and Nittany Lions.

–Field Level Media