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Juwan Howard, Tom Izzo react after MSU blows out Michigan in rivalry game

Izzo had some praise for Michigan after winning his 700th career game.

Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Tuesday night’s loss was all too familiar for the Michigan men’s basketball. While the Wolverines got off to a great start, a scoring drought and defensive mistakes led to a second half collapse. The Wolverines ended up getting blown out at MSU, 81-62.

Being successful in transition has been a trademark of Tom Izzo basketball teams for years, and breakdowns on defense when the pace of the game got quicker killed the Wolverines.

“It first started with the transition defense,” Howard said after the game. “In the first half we gave up one point in transition, second half we gave up 17. Three-point shooting, not guarding the three-point line, and not just with Jaden (Akins), but Jaden hit some backbreakers that really hurt us and also gave the crowd the energy and also ignited their team.”

Inconsistent defense has been Michigan’s downfall all season long, as only 21 teams in all of Division I men’s college basketball have given up more points per game than the Wolverines (79.3). Howard took responsibility for Michigan’s defensive struggles after the loss.

“I would say that we will continue to keep working on it. It’s a mindset,” Howard said. “You have to really want to be dialed into wanting to play defense. It’s not gonna show up in a box score. And I take full blame as the coach, I take full blame, it’s on me. So, we’re gonna work on it and we’ll be better with it. I’m not gonna give up on it. This is what’s been successful for us. I know it’s gotta be a staple of who we are.”

Scoring droughts have become commonplace for the Wolverines in the second half. After making only one shot that wasn’t a free throw in the final 10 minutes of the recent Iowa loss, the Wolverines went more than six minutes in the second half (13:06-6:55) without a made field goal against the Spartans.

Reading Michigan’s body language in the second half, there was a lot of woe-is-me looks on the Wolverines faces.

“It’s those droughts where it’s like, mentally, we lose it,” Howard said. “And it’s a confidence where it’s the basics. I think it’s a little bit of both.”

Praise from Izzo

Last night was a big night for Izzo, as he picked up his 700th career win on his 69th birthday against his rival. Howard had praise for the rival coach after the loss.

“He’s an example of what a lot of us coaches aspire to become, and the success he’s had in college basketball, the work is just right there glaring at you,” Howard said. “I really admire coach in a lot of ways. Yes, it’s a rivalry, it’s always gonna be a rivalry, but at the same time you just gotta give respect when respect is due.”

In his postgame availability, Izzo praised the hot start Michigan got off to, as the Wolverines looked like the better team for a large portion of the game.

“I thought Michigan played awfully well the first 25 minutes of the game, and I thought we played better the last 15,” Izzo said in part after the win. “You gotta give Michigan a lot of credit, I thought they out-played us most of the first half even though the score wasn’t what it was.”

One of the sole bright spots for the Wolverines last night was the play of Jaelin Llewellyn, who led the team with a Michigan career-high 18 points while making 4-of-6 from three.

“That is a talented team,” Izzo said. “I really like the point guard. Llewellyn, he played well, he did some good things. It’s gotta be hard to do what Juwan has gone through between his own illness and his situation with (Dug McDaniel). I think they’re handling it as well as he can. It’s still a team that has got some talent and is gonna win some games, I bet you.”