EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — No. 9 Michigan State dropped three spots in The Associated Press poll after losing two straight for the first time this season.

“We’re going to try to get up off the mat,” coach Tom Izzo said Monday.

 

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 5: Head Coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans asks the referees for a foul against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half on January 5, 2019 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Michigan State defeated Ohio State 86-77. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

 

The Spartans got knocked around and beaten at home by previously slumping Indiana in overtime Saturday, nearly a week after losing by 10 points at Purdue.

“This doesn’t change our goals,” senior forward Kenny Goins said. “Our season’s not over, but obviously something has to change.”

 

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – JANUARY 27: Carsen Edwards #3 and Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrate after the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Mackey Arena on January 27, 2019 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

 

Michigan State (18-4, 9-2 Big Ten) is aiming to repeat as the Big Ten’s regular-season champion, but its losses last week took away a potential cushion. The Spartans have fallen into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten with No. 7 Michigan and No. 15 Purdue and the leaders have a slim lead over No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 24 Maryland.

The Spartans have a shot to get their swagger back Tuesday night at Illinois, which is tied for 12th in the Big Ten, and Saturday at home against middle-of-the-pack Minnesota.

 

IOWA CITY, IOWA- JANUARY 24: Forward Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans grabs a rebound in the first half from guard Isaiah Moss #4 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on January 24, 2019 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

 

Izzo thinks the regular-season champion will have at least three or four losses by the time its first 20-game schedule closes in a month. To hang another banner at the Breslin Center, the Spartans desperately need Nick Ward to bounce back. Ward was 1 of 9 at the line, making one of two shots when Michigan State trailed Indiana by one with 18 seconds left in regulation. He wasn’t the only one who struggled at the line because his team was 8 of 22.

“It was almost like an epidemic,” Izzo said.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 02: De’Ron Davis #20 of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots the ball and draws a foul from Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Breslin Center on February 2, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

It was uncharacteristic for Ward, who made all nine attempts at the line over the previous four games, and for the Spartans, who have made 72 percent of their free throws this season.

While Izzo can forgive and forget Ward’s woes at the line, rebounding remains a concern. The junior forward had just two defensive rebounds against the Hoosiers and a total of just nine last week.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – JANUARY 21: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts during a game against the Maryland Terrapins in the second half at Breslin Center on January 21, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

Izzo lamented his team’s lack of physical play Saturday and didn’t back off that criticism two days later.

“Some of it is Nick,” Izzo said. “He has to do a better job of cutting out and rebounding.”

Izzo is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and has won one national championship and eight Big Ten titles along with coaching in the Final Four seven times because his teams play tough defense, rebound tenaciously and hustle.

 

IOWA CITY, IOWA- JANUARY 24: Guard Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans drives down the court in the second half against guard Jordan Bohannon #3 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on January 24, 2019 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

 

Cassius Winston vowed the Spartans will get back to their scrappy ways.

“We’ve got to make a promise to ourselves that we’re not going to get beat, we’re not going to get outworked,” said Winston, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award that recognizes the nation’s top point guard. “If a team’s going to beat us, they’re going to outplay us.”

 

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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