Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reality Check

Northwestern did the unthinkable Wednesday night by winning in East Lansing for the first time since 1984. Led by Kevin Coble's 31 points, the Wildcats relied on clutch three point shooting and their pressure 1-3-1 defense to overcome Michigan State's athleticism 70-63.

Player of the Game - Kevin Coble 31 points on 10-16 shooting.

Why Northwestern Won:
1) Points Off of Turnovers - Once again, it wasn't the number of turnovers that killed MSU in this game. It was Northwestern's effectiveness in turning these turnovers into points on the other end. The Wildcats turned 18 Michigan State turnovers into 27 points. That's almost 40% of their total points! Then, add in the fact that Northwestern only had 7 turnovers themselves and that is a recipe for disaster.
2) Clutch Outside Shooting - As a team, the Wildcats shot below their season average with regards to three point percentage at 32%. The key, however, was the timing of their threes. Whenever they needed a big basket, the Wildcats cashed in a three from near the hash mark. The back-to-back threes by Craig Moore and Michael Thompson with 6:31 remaining were especially clutch as they put the Wildcats up for good.
3) Kevin Coble - He went Drew Neitzel versus Wisconsin two years ago in the very same building. Whatever he chucked even near the basket was destined to go in. There was no stopping him on this night.
4) Poor Michigan State 3-Pt Shooting - If you compare the two games' box scores, the biggest difference between last night and the earlier meeting was our three-point shooting. In the first contest we finished 9-16 from behind the arc for 56%. Last night we shot less than 25% going 5-21. You can't credit all of this to Northwestern's defense either. Many of our attempts from beyond the arc were open looks that we just couldn't convert into points.
5) Excellent Coaching - Bill Carmody has done an excellent job with this team. They take care of the ball extremely well and play great pressure defense. Although I disagree with giving essentially the entire Wildcat team the green light to shoot anywhere on the floor, it might be the only way Northwestern is able to beat a team like Michigan State.

What Went Well for MSU:
1) Goran Suton - Despite not getting the ball enough, Suton managed to pull down a double-double and finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Although he still got beat a few times on the perimeter, he played solidly overall.
2) Free Throws - The Spartans finished 20-24 from the charity stripe lead by Suton's 9-11 performance. Can you imagine what this game would have been like if MSU shot their season average 68%?
3) Rebounding - Michigan State again outrebounded Northwestern in this contest with a +16 margin. They were led by Goran Suton's 14 rebounds.

Coaching Mistakes
1) We Ignored Our Bigs - Obviously we thought that our outside shooting was going to win this game. Tom Izzo even said as much in the pre-game interview. So, instead of attacking the zone inside, we got into a three-point contest with a team that lives and dies by the three. As a result, Northwestern outshot us from behind the three-point line and nearly outscored us in the paint (MSU 20, NW 18). That is unacceptable.
2) Clock Management - Although I disagree with it, I can understand fouling to get into the bonus when we are down by 7 with just over two minutes. What I can' t understand is why put Northwestern on the line when they are up by three with forty-five seconds left, especially when they are in the double bonus. Just play good defense, get a stop, and then look for a three.
3) Substitutions - I'm convinced there is no rhyme or reason to Izzo's substitutions. There's no way that Raymar should have should have seen the court, let alone play nearly half the game (18 minutes). And while I am a proponent of getting Lucas and Lucious on the court together, I certainly don't want to try it out when we are losing to Northwestern in the second half.
4) X's and O's - I got a lot of grief when I started this blog and said that I thought Izzo might be the worst X's and O's coach ever. Well, this may have been an overstatement, but you can see what I mean by watching the final two minutes of last night's game. When we desperately need a basket, a structured offensive play was not to be found. We got one good look by Chris Allen from three but this wasn't even a designed play. He was just open. Instead, we got a lot of Kalin Lucas dribbling atop the key (ala Mateen) with no results.
5) Pressure Defense - I saw for a short period of time Michigan State play in-your-face pressure defense last night. The problem was that it didn't start until 2 minutes left. Izzo needs to unleash these guys and let them pressure the ball more.

Other Game Thoughts
1) This is Why People Get Down on the Izzone - What was different between this game and the Ohio State game? Nothing. That's the problem. Someone at the LSJ needs to republish that 1999 article titled "Izzone: You Stink". The entire crowd was silent until late in the second half when it really looked like Northwestern had a chance to win this game. For as many times as Izzo has said how the Breslin crowd has won games for them in the past, he should come out today and say how they lost the game for them last night.
2) Note to the BTN: Someone please tell Tom Hamilton that Chris Hill does not play for us anymore. It's Chris Allen buddy. In the pregame, Jim Jackson also referred to Kalin Lucas as Kaden Lucas.

"It doesn't surprise me that we didn't go undefeated like most people around here thought we would. It does surprise me that we would lose at home in this fashion."
--Tom Izzo

Coach, before losing to Northwestern, most people around here were worried that we would blow a two game lead in the conference not whether or not we would go undefeated.

"My concern is not the loss, but rather how we respond to the loss." --Tom Izzo

"We just did not get the ball inside. I need to look at doing a better job of that myself."
--Tom Izzo

That's what I'm talking about. Feed the big men. Heck, I would like to us go without shooting a single three pointer for one game just to prove a point.

"Too many turnovers by the guards and the bigs, we've got to do a better job of being focused." --Kalin Lucas

Umm......The bigs only had two turnovers. The guards had 16. You had 6 and only 2 assists.

"People think they're bad shots. They're not. They just look different." --Kevin Coble

No...they are bad shots, but they went in. Like a true scorer, Coble hasn't ever seen a shot he didn't like.

"You're not helping 'em Raymar, your hurting 'em......and you shouldn't be on the court"
-Kyle from Austin, TX

Nice apparent Jim Rome reference although it wasn't Morgan's fault. As John L. said "The coach that sent him in...we shouldn't have sent him in, that's a dang coaching mistake!"

1 comment:

  1. Nice recap. Northwestern earned this one. Looks like the Wildcats are finally learning how to finish games, which (don't laugh) might give lots of teams the shakes over the next six weeks. Jeremy Nash was the unsung hero with the way he caused all sorts of trouble for the Spartans on the perimeter. MSU needs to figure out how to attack a zone (check out Illinois) or else they're going to see more zone down the stretch.


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