Moments after Michigan State fell 71-61 at Ohio State on Tuesday night for its sixth loss in eight games, Spartans coach Tom Izzo offered this evaluation of his team's failed bid to topple the Big Ten-leading Buckeyes.
"I feel good about a lot of our guys," Izzo told reporters. "Just one or two I don't."
There was no mistaking which player Izzo meant even if he was courteous enough not to call him out by name. He was referring to senior guard Durrell Summers, who pulled a disappearing act that would have made Harry Houdini envious.
In a game that could have revitalized the Spartans' season and solidified their flickering NCAA tournament hopes, Summers went scoreless with only one field-goal attempt in 16 lackluster minutes. Summers is averaging 5.3 points per game on 8 for 28 from the field in Michigan State's last four games, lowering his season average to 12.6 points per game on a career-low 40.9 percent shooting.
The no-show in Columbus is the latest setback for Summers in a disappointing season that began amid high expectations. The MVP of the Midwest Regional last season, Summers has not only failed to blossom into the senior standout many thought he'd become but his deteriorating performance lately has coincided with Michigan State's midseason slide.
There's no way of knowing whether Michigan State could have upset Ohio State with a decent performance from Summers, but the Spartans were within striking distance even with zero production from him. Kalin Lucas had 14 points, Delvon Roe fought through a debilitating knee injury and big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix did a credible job containing Jared Sullinger, enabling Michigan State to pull within four points with four minutes to play.
Just one big 3-pointer or game-changing steal from Summers might have put Michigan State over the top, but the senior guard couldn't overcome the early adversity he faced. Summers picked up two blocking fouls in the game's opening 63 seconds trying to keep Ohio State's David Lighty out of the lane, forcing him to sit out most of the first half.
Listless and out of rhythm the rest of the game, he even failed to make any effort to chase down a loose ball in the backcourt with 5:39 left in the game, enabling Ohio State's Aaron Craft to convert a breakaway layup. At that point, Izzo had seen enough, sitting Summers for the rest of the game.
At 14-11 overall and 6-7 in Big Ten play, Michigan State is still in contention for an NCAA tournament berth because of its strength of schedule and the weakness of some of the other teams on the bubble.
For the Spartans to even make the field let alone do any damage, however, they are going to need Summers to recapture last season's form before it's too late.