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.

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