Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Michigan State relied on another hot shooting performance to outlast Indiana 64-59 to win its first outright Big Ten title since the 1998-1999 season.
Player of the Game: Raymar Morgan (14 points, 7 rebounds)
What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Shooting - This was our second consecutive game where our offense came ready to play. The Spartans shot over 50% from the field finishing 22-43. We especially played really well in the first half by establishing Roe down low early in the game. He had all 7 of his points in the first 5:30. For some reason we got away from that later in the game. Instead, we relied on jump shots, which luckily for us, were falling in this game. If we didn't have one of our best shooting nights of the year, we wouldn't have won this game.
2) Raymar Morgan - Raymar played great yesterday. Like I said after last game, he looks like he is finally back although he still only played 22 minutes last night. He hit all of his shots from the floor, including a huge monster jam to seal the victory. How is that not on ESPN's top plays? It was a great play, and unlike most that usually make it to the highlight reel, it was a play that mattered. Ridiculous.
What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Defense - Indiana essentially dominated this game offensively. The Hoosiers dictated the tempo and were able to get any shot that they wanted in this game. Their long, drawn out possessions wore us down and we had many mental lapses that led to uncontested layups for Indiana. Shockingly, the Hoosiers won the points in the paint battle 28-22 despite their best weapons being Kyle Taber (a walk-on) and Tom Pritchard (a freshman).
2) Turnovers - The raw number of 14 isn't really that bad, but when you consider how the total number of possessions was lower than normal, you recognize how careless we were with the ball. Of the 14 turnovers, only 6 of them came off of steals, meaning MSU just threw the ball away, or more likely, travelled with it.
3) Technical Foul - Being at the game myself, I don't know what exactly Izzo did. Talking with friends, he was giving it to the refs, presumably about the travelling call on Lucas. Whatever the reason, it was a horrible mental mistake. Sure, the refs were calling every little ticky-tac foul, but it went both ways and to argue with them to the point of getting a technical is irresponsible. It lead to a monstrous comeback and I would have liked to have heard from Tom Izzo if we lost that game.
4) Too Many Jump Shots - Aside from the first 5 minutes, we didn't emphasize getting the ball down low enough. Once again, Indiana outscored us in the paint. Regardless of what our defense did, Suton should have dominated in the paint, and he didn't. Even Raymar, who had a great game, couldn't post up Brett Finkelmeier, a 6-1 guard. Did anyone see this? That little guy was pushing the hell out of Raymar down on the block and really frustrated him. His feistiness didn't allow a single point from Morgan in the paint and even created a turnover.
Having went to the game, I have to say, it was more of a nerve-racking experience than it was fun. For most of the second half, all I could think to myself was "Why does this always happen to us? Why do we lose these games?" How could we lose to Northwestern, Penn State, and potentially Indiana in the same year? How did we lose to Iowa and Penn State last year? Or what about at Hawaii in 2005? Or, for god sakes, how did the national championship team ever lose at Wright State in 2000? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you.
But, on this night, we somehow managed to pull out of the second-half tailspin we were in. Raymar Morgan rose to the occasion and his spectacular put-back dunk finished off what was otherwise a poorly designed play to win the game. I probably will always remember how I felt when he slammed it home. Instead of jumping up and down in excitement, I gave a strong fist pump, belted out a cheesy "Yeah!", and then calmly watched the rest of the game in silence. At that time, I wasn't happy, but I was relieved. Relieved that we didn't blow a Big Ten championship in dramatic fashion.
"It's probably the most rewarding (championship) because of what we went through. It just doesn't feel like it tonight."
"That play was just on instinct. I just saw the ball come off and knew that I could make a play on it. Luckily, I did. It felt great." --Raymar Morgan
"No matter how we won today, no matter the down moments, we scrapped and fought and went 8-1 on the road. Not too many teams can say they went 8-1 on the road." --Travis Walton
"That's the loudest I've ever heard them." --Indiana Forward Malik Story on the home crowd
Other Game Notes
1) Assembly Hall Was Louder Than the Breslin - Just to give you an idea of what I'm comparing it to, I was in the Izzone during the most recent "Glory Days" from 1997-2001. Last night, Assembly Hall was the loudest place I have ever been to. In particular, when they hit that three pointer to cut the lead to two points, I couldn't hear my wife next to me. Sure, Assembly Hall is bigger, but their fans really got into the game. No one has to tell even the alumni when to stand up. They know. They have lived Indiana basketball their entire lives.
2) Tom Izzo Declined Trophy Presentation - Apparently, prior to the game, the Big Ten had offered a trophy presentation to Michigan State if we were to beat Indiana, but Tom Izzo declined it. Thank god for that! It would have been brutal. He also said that there will be no pregame celebration before Purdue. I think that is a great idea too!
1) ESPN Article Features Flint Basketball - The link is here. It's pretty much your standard "blue-collared kids from Flint play good basketball" piece. It's not bad, but Jarred Field of the Flint Journal is fed up with this type of story apparently. He has his own response to this particular article. It can be found here.
I'll be giving away another "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for Sunday's game against Purdue. The correct prediction of the winner and closest margin of victory will take the DVD home. Please email me or post a comment to the website to be entered.
Break - I may be taking a day or two off. Check back sometime this week.