After a strong start to Big Ten play that saw wins over Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers, Michigan State got back in the loss column Saturday.
It was a unique game not just because Penn State beat Michigan State, something that hadn't happened since March 2011. The Spartans and Nittany Lions clashed in the Palestra, the famous Philadelphia arena that's been hosting college hoops games since the 1920s.
The arena's legacy is so impressive that it's dubbed the Cathedral of College Basketball.
The setting seemed to make Saturday's 72-63 loss by Michigan State sting even more for head coach Tom Izzo, who let his team have it in his postgame press conference, calling the Spartans' effort "humiliating" and apologizing to the fans and even the building.
"This was humiliating for me to be in such a great city and in a great basketball venue, and our players did not play and I didn't have our players ready to play," Izzo said, his comments published by MLive.com. "The whole thing falls on me. But I'm just so tired of trying to explain why I don't see the daylight at the end of tunnel. I see us getting better, and then the minute I say it, we take that for granted.
"My apologies to this magnificent facility. ... I feel like we cheated those of you who have seen great teams and great coaches and great players play here. You got robbed today."
Penn State led for pretty much the whole game and shot better (46.4 percent compared to 41.1 percent). The Lions scored 16 points off 17 turnovers by the Spartans. Penn State had a 38-28 rebounding edge.
All those things drove Izzo nuts.
"I am embarrassed that in a city where basketball is like this that my team would play like they did in that first half," Izzo said. "We guarded nobody. We played with no energy. I was totally frustrated with the way we played. I guess I'm going to have to live with some of it and that's the problem with freshmen — up and down. But it was very discouraging."
Izzo started all four of his highly touted freshmen in Saturday's game. Miles Bridges played in his second game back from an ankle injury, and the rust has most definitely not worn off, Izzo evaluating his star at around 80-percent health.
But Bridges' effort was as much a topic of conversation as his health. This from MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn:
Multiple times, Bridges was caught standing and watching, instead of running and rebounding. He missed one loose ball in the second half and got blistered on the court by junior point guard Tum Tum Nairn, and then sent to the bench.
But it sounds like Bridges was hardly the only one in green and white not to live up to Izzo's expectations.
And that's becoming an upsetting season-long theme for a program that annually challenges not just for conference championships but for a national championship.
This was the sixth loss of the season for Izzo's crew and the second that's come in somewhat embarrassing fashion. Non-conference losses to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke could be excused due to the quality of the competition. But this loss to Penn State feels a little more like the defeat at the hands of Northeastern than it does other of those aforementioned losses.
This doesn't yet seem like your typical Izzo team, and while there's still time to iron these issues out, questions of effort and readiness with a young roster might linger long enough to yield a far less rosier than usual outlook for Michigan State come March.