Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ohio State Preview #2

The Spartans look to overcome their devastating defeat to Northwestern last Wednesday evening as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Earlier this year, MSU beat the Buckeyes 67-58 essentially because of excellent rebounding and good outside shooting. In that contest, the Spartans had a +8 rebounding advantage and finished 8-17 from behind the arc. Kalin Lucas led Michigan State with 20 points on 6-8 shooting.

Ohio State (13-4 overall, 3-3 in the conference)

Key Wins:
at Miami (FL) 73-68
Notre Dame (neutral site) 67-62
Butler 54-51
at Michigan 65-58

Key Losses:
West Virginia 76-48
at Minnesota 68-59
at MSU 67-58
at Illinois 67-49

Why Ohio State Could Win:
1) Inside Presence - Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens are dominating forces inside the paint, especially defensively. In their first matchup, the Spartans benefited from Lauderdale's early foul trouble which limited his play. The defensive standout finished with three blocks and together with B.J. Mullens, altered many more shots. Despite Michigan State winning the rebounding battle, the margin was only +8 (7 below MSU's conference average) and the Buckeyes gathered 12 offensive rebounds. I expect Michigan State to struggle offensively inside the paint due to Ohio States long shot blockers.
2) Good 3-Pt Shooting - As a team, Ohio State currently is the second best three-point shooting team within the conference. They are hitting 40% of their shots from behind the arc. They are led by Jon Diebler who converts 48% of his attempts within the conference. In the first meeting, however, Travis Walton effectively shut Diebler down holding him to 2-8 shooting, including 1-6 from the 3-pt line.
3) B.J. Mullens - Starting with the Michigan State game, B.J. Mullens has had five straight contests where he has scored in double figures. Currently he leads the Big Ten in FG% at a remarkable 72%. The problem for the Buckeyes, in my opinion, is that Thad Matta has generally been ignoring the young talented freshman. Instead of running the offense through Mullens, he has insisted on going through Evan Turner and Jon Diebler. Let's hope that he doesn't figure out how to feed the big man against us.
4) Michigan State Turnovers - As we all know, Michigan State cannot take care of the rock right now. Within the conference, they are ranked 10th in turnover margin at more than -3 per game. Indiana is last at -5.
5) Home Court Advantage - The Buckeyes are 10-1 at home this year with their only loss being to West Virginia. For some reason, I keep thinking that we don't usually play well at Value City Arena, but the Spartans have won 4 of their last 6 there. I think I have last year's debacle where MSU blew a 10 point lead with 12 minutes left and ultimately lost by 9.

Why Michigan State Can Win:
1) Point Guard Play - The Buckeyes biggest weakness at this point of the season is point guard play. William Buford has been hot of late, even winning the Big Ten Player of the Week last week, but he is more of a scorer than he is a floor general. I expect Kalin Lucas to have another big game against the young freshman.
2) Rebounding - As I always do, I'm expecting to win the rebounding war like we always do. Today, however, I think rebounding is especially important. Ohio State has the potential to grab more boards that Michigan State and if they do, we will undoubtedly lose.
3) Raymar Morgan - Despite struggling in the first matchup, I like him against Evan Turner. I think that Morgan can score consistently against the athletic Turner. The question is, will Raymar show up?
4) OSU's Lack of Depth - The Buckeyes effectively play only 7 players. Michigan State should have the obvious advantage if this game comes down to fatigue. The question is, can our bench step up and produce.

This is going to be a difficult game for the Spartans. They are coming off of a horrendous loss at home and now have to win on the road within the conference. Given their recent struggles, I expect the Buckeyes to utilize a lot of zone defense. With the dominating inside presence of Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens, especially defensively, I think MSU is going to have a hard time scoring inside. As a result, this game will come down to how well the Spartans can hit shots from the outside. While my heart says to pick MSU, logic tells me that the Spartans can't pull this one out on the road.

Ohio State over Michigan State 64-56.


"If you need a loss to straighten you out, you're either poorly coached or you have disrespectful players."

--Tom Izzo after being asked if a loss can send a message to his players.

Either way, this statement is not comforting. I guess I'll pick poorly coached because that should be easier to fix.

""I see him every game I can catch, and he's not the same player." --Dallas Lauderdale, Ohio State Center, regarding Delvon Roe to a recent Cleveland newspaper.

I'm happy with the Delvon that we have, thank you. He's playing solidly and is rebounding the ball really well. Roe Looking for Delvon.

Big Ten News
1) Michigan Beats NW 68-59 - The game featured 54 three point attempts. The difference between us and Michigan was that they only turned the ball over 8 times. Kevin Coble finished with 21 points on 9-18 shooting. The most impressive statistic in this game was how Manny Harris led the game with 12 rebounds.
2) Illinois Over Wisconsin 64-57 - Demetri McCamey had 25 points and 7 assists for a rare win against the Badgers
3) Penn State Over Iowa 63-59 - Just after I criticized Tim Staudt for having Penn State ranked 9th in the Big Ten, they looked terrible against the Hawkeyes.

Tomorrow: Ohio State Post Game #2.

MSU notes

MSU Basketball Notes
1) Raymar "Feeling Much Better Now" - You can find the story in Joe Rexrode's blog here. With this being said, I expect Raymar to play well and not to hear any more excuses. Note: Joe also says in the same article for the Spartans to become a final four team "Summers and Allen need to become steady weapons." As I said yesterday, I think if one of them can produce we will be in good shape.
2) Izzo Needs Help Motivating Players - In today's Detroit News, there is an article describing how Izzo has been proding players " take it personal and get in here on their own. Right now, I don't think I have enough guys that are trying to do that." You can find it here. It seems that this has become a recurring theme ever since the Hill, Anderson, and Torbert era. I put some of the blame on Izzo as he needs to address these issues before we lose to Northwestern at home.
3) Chris Allen Working On Outside Shooting - In the same article, Chri Allen mentions how everyday him and Mike Garland work on his three point shooting. He makes 100 three pointers before he goes home and said that it normally takes him 120 attempts to do so. He states that he has never missed more than 33 shots. That's crazy.
Big Ten Related News
1) Tim Staudt Ranks the Big Ten as He Sees It - The link is here. The biggest eye opener is him having Penn State ranked ninth in the conference behind Northwestern and Michigan.
2) Northwestern is 6 1/2 Point Favorite Over Michigan - Interesting to see momentum carry this line, especially since the game is in Ann Arbor. I wonder what the over/under will be for the number of three pointers jacked up in this game is. If anyone can find that, I would love to know.

Former MSU Player News
1) Andre Hutson Playing Along Side of Brandon Jennings - As you remember, Brandon Jennings was an Arizona basketball recruit last year who did not qualify acadmically and therefore, chose to play overseas instead of retaking his college enterence exam. Yesterday, I came across this blog post describing how the young man has been very frustrated with his Italian team, Lottomatica Virtus Roma. Currently he is averaging 5.8 points and 2.2 assists per game coming off of the bench. While I was on the team's website, I was surprised to see Hutson's name and that he was leading the team in scoring.
2) Andy Katz Surprised MoJo Comes off Bench for the Catamounts - He also said that Joseph needs to learn how to play better defense. I've heard that before. The link is here.

"The key is that we have guys with big hearts. You know, guys that probably wouldn't start for me at other programs, but they really believe...."
--Tubby Smith's comments on Dan Dakich's radio show in Indianapolis.

I found it funny how he came right out in the first 30 seconds and says that the players he has aren't that talented. Link to the audio is here.

Tomorrow - Ohio State Preview #2

Friday, January 23, 2009

Can Allen or Summers Step Their Game Up?

Michigan State has had difficulty finding someone off of the bench to give them solid minutes at the 3. We need Summers and Allen to step their games up.

1) Durrell Summers - I think Summers' biggest problem is that he isn't attacking the basket. Instead, he has been looking to jack up threes way too quickly. Despite leading the team in 3-pt percentage, I do not have confidence in his outside shooting. He had a hot streak earlier in the year that essentially culminated after his buzzer beater against Texas. I would much rather see him use his athleticism to dribble around his defender and attack the rim. The only problem with that is that I don't know how great of an athlete he really is. Sure he can jump real high and run real fast, but can he do those things better than his predecessors? Can he out jump J-Rich, Morris Peterson, or Shannon Brown when they were at his stage? I don't think so. In fact, I think that a majority of our opponents from major conferences have at least one player who is more athletic than Summers.

2) Chris Allen - Chris is coming off of one of the worst games statistically that I have ever seen by a Spartan. He finished 1-11 from the field, including 0-8 from the 3-pt line, and 7 turnovers. With that being said, I agree with Izzo on sticking with him. There isn't a great way to spin Allen's stat line, but I will say I don't think it was as bad as it looks. He obviously played poorly, but given Izzo's lack of alternatives, he was the best guard available.

If Raymar Morgan plays solidly for the rest of the year, which is a big if, then Chris Allen becomes the Spartans' X-factor. He is the only true outside shooter on this team and for us to make a deep NCAA tournament run, we need him to perform well. While he is struggling in regards to 3-pt FG%, he has a tremendous amount of confidence in his ability to shoot and eventually he will turn it around. It's also reassuring that he has improved steadily on the defensive end, a feat that is probably more difficult to do than correct his current shooting slump.

For those having a hard time finding faith in the Spartans after Wednesday's loss, you can't help but feel good after watching this feature on Mateen:

One Shining Moment

Don't think about the fact that our team isn't nearly as good as that one.

Around the Big Ten
1) Purdue Handles Minnesota on the Road 70-62 - Here it comes. Purdue is surging from the basement towards the top of the conference. They took care of the Gophers last night by relying on their pressure defense that extends past half court. The Spartans better get their act together because that defense is going to turn them over all night long. It really would have been nice if Northwestern had taken care of the Boilers in Evanston.

That's Ridiculous
1) PETA - These guys are awesome. Has anyone ever seen some of their work. They are over the top. Their latest is that they are insisting that the NFL conduct a brain scan on Michael Vick to see if he has underlying psychological problems and until they do, they will not work on an anti-dog fighting public service announcement with the former player. Do we really need a brain scan PETA? Everyone in America knows that he is messed up. Just do his commercial and be done with it.

Click here for my favorite PETA smack of all time. It's an open letter to the NBA after they changed back to the leather ball after using the synthetic one. They call Lebron and others "Sissys".

2) Allen Iverson Voted to Start in All-Star Game - What? I don't think the votes came from anyone near Detroit. Maybe they came from the same people who voted Yao Ming to start also. This is what's wrong with the NBA.

"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." --TD Lawlor from

Thanks for the email. You are right. Jeremy Nash did a great job causing a bunch of turnovers. I also agree with the Spartans needing to be better against the zone. Look for Ohio State to utilize the zone more after seeing the difficulites that the MSU has had.

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!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Northwestern Preview #2

Michigan State looks to beat Northwestern for the second time this year. Their previous contest featured one of Raymar Morgan's best games of the year where he went for 22 points and 13 rebounds. Today, it is uncertain whether or not Raymar Morgan will play due to an illness. Can the bench provide enough to overcome the outside shooting Wildcats? Joe Rexrode discusses it here.

Northwestern (9-6 overall, 1-4 in the conference)

Key Wins:
vs. Florida State 73-59
vs. Minnesota 74-65

Key Losses:
at Penn State 61-57
at Wisconsin 74-45
vs MSU 77-66
vs Purdue 63-61

Why Northwestern Could Win:
1. Hot shooting - We all are aware of how much Northwestern likes to shoot the three ball. In fact, 36% of all of their points this year have come from behind the arc. Craig Moore continues to be hot shooting 45% from three point land on the season. Kevin Coble can also convert from distance. If they shoot the lights out in the Breslin, we could see another overplayed BTN commercial featuring an upset of MSU.
2. Turnover Margin - Northwestern is a top the Big Ten with regards to turnover margin at +4.33. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten in steals per game averaging over 8 swipes per contest. Add that to a very efficient offense that scores on an assist 68% of the time and you have a recipe for success. If the Spartans turn the ball over like they did in the first half of the Illinois game, we will be in big trouble.
3. Look Inside More - During last matchup against MSU, Northwestern got a lot of easy buckets down low. Luckily for us, the Wildcats insisted on chucking up threes from nearly half court. If they play more disciplined and only shoot threes when they are open, they could make this a close game. Also look for them to exploit Suton's apparent lack of quickness out on the perimeter. He had a hard time defending against the drive the last time we played them probably due to his knee injury.

Why Northwestern could lose:
1. Poor Rebounding - The Wildcats are dead last in conference rebounding margin at worse than -14 per game. This is horrendous. The next worse is -4.4 per game. Look for Michigan State to dominate on the glass and probably increase their current rebounding margin of +15.
2. Lack of athleticism. If MSU gets out and running, Northwestern will have essentially no chance of winning this game. The Wildcats will need to slow it down, be patient, and run the Princeton offense effectively to beat the more athletic Spartans.
3. MSU is Shutting Down the Three in Conference - Currently Michigan State leads the Big Ten in conference 3-pt FG defense holding opponents to just under 29%. While I would hope that this is due to great Spartan defensive pressure, I'm concerned that our conference opponents have just been cold so far this year. Historically, we have not defended the three well but if we continue our current pace, we will be very successful through the end of the season.

On paper, it appears that Michigan State will dominate nearly all aspects of this game. They should be able to dictate tempo, outrebound, and have success defending Northwestern's three point shooters without difficulty. Then, add in the fact that the game is going to be played in the Breslin Center and you have to wonder how Michigan State could possibly lose this game. Statistics do not always translate onto the court however.

The only way that Northwestern wins this game is if Coble and Moore get extremely hot and the team creates 20+ Michigan State turnovers. Don't be surprised if the Wildcats achieve one of these two goals, but I don't think both will happen. In the end, the more athletic Spartans will prevail.

Michigan State over Northwestern 72-56

"They're a lot different, they're going to more of those 6-7, 6-8 guys. ... They're turning people over a lot, they're a lot different team than they were, and (Craig) Moore has been pretty effective as of late. ...This is a better team than the one we played earlier, and we are, too."
--Tom Izzo on Northwestern

I agree with all of the above except for how we are a better team than when we played them earlier. Since then we have been Helter Skelter with great wins over Ohio State and Kansas, but then struggling badly against Penn State and Illinois.

"They are a fast-paced team, they get the ball out and go. We have to get back, stop the ball and make them play against our 1-3-1 zone."
--Michael Thompson, NW sophomore guard

The first step is believing. The next is going out and doing it.

Around the Big Ten
1) Michigan Destroyed by Penn State 73-58 - Michigan's insistence to jack up threes is ridiculous. They started this game with 8 three-ball attempts in the first three and a half minutes. They finished 5-30 from behind the arc while DeShawn Sims was dominating inside. Sims finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds on 10-14 shooting. Hopefully Michigan will continue to ignore Sims when we play them down in Ann Arbor.

Michigan's current 3-game skid is starting to make Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker proud. Could they be going into their typical January and February disappearing act? No way this Michigan team misses the tournament this year right? I knew I shouldn't have picked them to finished third in the conference.

2) Illinois Handled Ohio State - Illinois had their typical balanced scoring act while Ohio State had difficulty taking care of the ball. The Buckeyes finished with a season high 20 turnovers. BJ Mullens finished with 14 points on 6-8 shooting.

"Why didn't you comment on the Arkansas's hiring of John L. Smith as special teams coordinator?"
--Jon from Owosso, MI

Well, I indeed did know about it. I just didn't know if I should put it into the blog or not. It's pretty ironic that John L. Smith got this gig as a special teams coordinator. I hope he doesn't "screw it up."

Tomorrow - Northwestern Post Game

Throw Some Tamiflu in There.

Spartan Storylines:
1) Raymar Morgan Questionable - Izzo commented yesterday that Raymar is even sicker now than he was on Saturday. He thinks he has the flu and is uncertain whether or not he will play. I say, if he is sick, sit him down. Although he has the potential to change a game, we have won without him before. I'm pretty sure that we will win without him again. Besides, our team is deep enough to rotate different players into the lineup without losing that much. By the way, the team does get flu shots as stated in this article.
2) MSU Climbs to #7 in Both Polls - After looking at the poll closely, I think this is right where we belong. I think we are clearly better than the teams ranked below us, but I'm not sure if we can beat any of the teams ranked ahead of us.
3) "No One in the Country is Playing Better Than Michigan State" - Posted by Joe Lunardi of here (line #5). I think he forgot that Wake Forest is undefeated and beat North Carolina last week. He also must not have seen our last two games.

Fun Stuff From the Spartan Program:
1) Kool-Aid Competitions? - Raymar Morgan states that the team often has Kool-Aid Competitions and he apparently is the best mixer. He likes combining black cherry and fruit punch. He should throw some Tamiflu in there this week.
2) Tom Herzog is in the Honor's College - While I applaud his efforts, I question what the Honor's College gives you. If you get good grades, it doesn't matter whether or not you are in the Honor's College. Just keep getting those 4.0's Tom.
3) Kalin Lucas Prefers Watching the NBA Over College - Kalin, you are what is wrong with America! How can you watch that garbage? Soon enough you will be living the NBA. For now, have fun in college.

Big Ten News:
1) Michigan Plans on Building New Basketball Facility - Officials believe that it will be approved in Thursday's Board of Regents meeting. For years, college basketball analysts have stated how outdated Michigan's equipment is and stated that recruits stayed away because of it. I disagree. I would argue that Michigan has had some good recruiting classes, but they haven't been able to corral the talent they have brought in. Look at this analysis of Big Ten Basketball recruiting from '98-'08. Michigan had the second highest number of Top 100 recruits during that ten year span and managed the fourth worst conference record. In the end, I think that better coaching is going to be the difference down in Ann Arbor. Not better equipment.

Tomorrow: Northwestern Preview #2

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Illinois Post Game

It's two days later, and I still don't know how we won that Illinois game. The most obvious reason is our advantage on the boards, but I think Illinois playing poorly had much more to do with it. It wasn't like Michigan State got real hot and ran away with the game in the end. Instead, Illinois suddenly became ice cold and did not score in the last six minutes. I don't think that was due to stiffling MSU defense either.

Worst Plays from Illinois Game - As I said yesterday, it wasn't the number Spartan mistakes that was frustrating, it was the nature of them.
1) Walton's Free Throws - Almost all of them were ugly, but the airball was brutal. Thank god those late free throws were not needed.
2) Lucas Pass of Delvon Roe's Hip - Lucas tried to give it up to Roe as he was setting a screen. It ended up bouncing off his hip and going the other way for an Illini basket.
3) Gray Blows a Breakaway Dunk - Trent Meacham tried to strip him, but really wasn't a factor in the play. Gray just missed it.
4) Suton Fumbles Alley-Oop - He tried to convert it into a lay-up, but it didn't work.

That's Rediculous
1) Inadvertant Whitsle -The only thing worse that this play was Travis Walton's defense on Alex Legion that led to the three pointer. He got caught up in a screen under the basket and looked confused as to who to cover. I couldn't help thinking at the time that this stuff seems to always happen to us. Luckily for us, it wasn't the difference in the game however. The Spartans bounced back quickly led by Goran Suton and his quick three point shot.
2) Tom Izzo's Technical - We still don't know what led to Coach getting T'd up. The announcers speculated that he said something to a player and the refs thought he was talking to them. They also said that the particular ref that called the technical has T'd Izzo up in four out of his last five games while officiating Spartan games. If that is true, that guy shouldn't be reffing our games anymore. Someone needs to look into that.

While I Was Gone in the Big Ten
1) Minnesota/Wisconsin - The dramatic Gopher win could really help MSU down the road. The Badgers don't lose many games at home and it was surprising to see them go down to Minnesota. 2) Purdue/Northwestern - A Wildcat win would have been huge for the Spartans, but it wasn't meant to be. Despite their two losses, I still think that Purdue will be the team contending with Michigan State for the title.
3) Ohio State/Michigan - The Buckeyes seemed to bounce back with a huge game in Ann Arbor. Who the heck knows what to expect from Michigan on any given night. They may beat the Spartans at home this year and then lose to Indiana.
4) Northwestern/Minnesota - In a game that featured 19 made three-pointers, you would have thought that Northwestern would have lived and died by the three. This really wasn't the case. Craig Moore was 6-9 from distance, but the rest of the Wildcats were 3-12. The tandem of Moore and Coble proved to be the difference as they went for 22 and 20 respectively.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Michigan State Overcomes Sloppy Play and Beats Illinois 63-57

The Spartans slid past the Fighting Illini in an ugly game that featured horrendous turnovers and poor shooting. In the end, the Spartans' solid team rebounding and good team defense carried them to the victory.

Player of the Game - Marquise Gray 11pts and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes

What went well for MSU:
1) Rebounding - Once again, MSU dominated the rebound margin 42-30. Illinois, however, did manage to grab 12 offensive rebounds, which is quite impressive. Raymar Morgan led the Spartans with 8 rebounds.
2) Marquise Gray - 'Quise played phenomenally after being inspired by the retirement of Morris Peterson's jersey. He put together one of the best stat lines of the game despite only playing 15 minutes. One has to question why he didn't play more after such a spectacular first half.
3) Perimeter Defense - As a team, the Spartans held Trent Meacham and Demetri McCamey to a combined 1-16 from the field. The entire Illini backcourt was essentially held in check with the exception of Alex Legion who had a career game.
4) Transition Game - The Illini were not ready to defend the Spartans and their quick counterattacking tendencies, especially on converted Illini baskets. Knowing that Bruce Webber is a great coach, I was really surprised to see that he didn't have his kids ready to defend the Spartans' quick transition game.
5) Goran Suton - Overall, he played pretty well. He was 5-8 from the field finishing with 12 points and 6 rebounds. He still is looking slow on the defensive end and is committing foolish fouls however.

What didn't go well for MSU:
1) Turnovers - For me, it wasn't the actually number of turnovers, it was the quality of them. In fact, the Spartans finished with 18 total which is only 4 more than their average. As Coach Izzo pointed out, the Illini only had 5 steals for the entire game, meaning that 13 of the TOs were either traveling violations or us throwing the ball away. That is outrageous.
2) Kalin Lucas - Nothing seemed to go very well for Kalin yesterday. He shot poorly going 3-13 from the field and had as many turnovers as he did assists (3). He did keep his composure, however, and convert on all four of his free throw attempts.
3) Raymar Morgan - Once again, Raymar was invisible for nearly the entire game. Sure, he had a great layup at the end of the game, but it wasn't enough to erase his lack of productivity up until that point. It certainly wasn't enough to warrant the "Raymar Morgan" chant that followed that nice play. Next time, the Izzone should get the "Raymar Morgan" chant going early in the first half so that he wakes up and realizes that he is playing in a basketball game. As a side note, Izzo explained that Raymar had the flu the night before and even joked about how we always have someone sick. How about we mix in a flu shot coach? It couldn't have affected Morgan that much as he played 31 minutes.
4) Three Point Shooting - After opening conference play with hot three point shooting, the Spartans had their second consecutive game where they shot less than 30% from beyond the arc (21.4%). It was also their second straight close game. I'm beginning to wonder whether or not Michigan State is a team that needs to rely on hot outside shooting to beat good teams.
5) The Bench - Aside from Marquise Gray, our bench played very poorly. Illinois bench outscored the Spartan reserves 32-21. Summers went for nada and two identical travel calls. Chris Allen finished 3-10 from the floor, although you could argue that he played better than his stat line shows. Lucious shined at times with a nice three pointer and a no-look pass to Gray for a slam, but this was marred by four turnovers in only 6 minutes of play.

Other Game Thoughts
1) Why Not Play Gray More - As mentioned above, Gray played spectacularly in a limited amount of time. I'm not sure why he didn't get more minutes, especially if Morgan wasn't feeling well. He could have played at the four along side of Suton and then a three guard line up. I know that Gray is a basket case, but as we saw today, his upside is tremendous. We need to find a way to regularly rotate him in so that we take full advantage of his skills.
2) Note to Doris Burke: Kalin Lucas is not Mateen - We know, Mateen was a rah-rah type of guy. Kalin Lucas is not. That doesn't make him a poor leader though. He leads by example and by dictating the offense. That is what a point guard does. They don't have pom-poms or do triple, no handed round-offs.
3) Izzone Pub - Here is a link to a Chicago Sun Times describing Illinois' troubles dealing with the Izzone.

"Welcome to the game Raymar Morgan" - Doris Burke after Raymar scored his first FG with 9:41 left in the second half

"We snuck one out we probably didn't deserve" - Tom Izzo

"I'm not sure which I like better: playing well for 35 minutes and playing poorly down the stretch or playing poorly for 35 minutes and playing well down the stretch. I guess if you win, you have to live with either one" - Tom Izzo

"Those two [Cleaves and Peterson] hanging up there gives me a little more motivation and drives me a little more" - Marquise Gray

Tomorrow - More Illinois Post Games including my worst plays of the game.