Sunday, February 1, 2009

Penn State Wins at Michigan State for the First Time Ever 72-68

Once again, the Spartans were beaten on their home court thanks to excellent three-point shooting. Talor Battle played like a first team all-conference point guard leading the Nittany Lions with 29 points. He finished 11-19 from the field including 6-12 from behind the arc. Kalin Lucas paced the Spartans with 23 points, but he did not shoot the ball well finishing 7-21.

Player of the Game - Talor Battle 29 points on 11-19 shooting, including 6-12 3-pt.

Why Penn State Won:
1) Talor Battle Was Unstoppable - As noted above, Battle played like a first team all-conference point guard against the Spartans. He was lights out from all over the floor. His lull you to sleep and pull up three to end the first half was amazing, especially since it was from 30 ft out. Without him going off for 29, the Spartans would have won this game handily. Battle provided inspiration for his team and his teammates stepped their games up big time.
2) Poor Michigan State Offense - As we have been doing all conference season long, Michigan State relied too heavily on outside shooting. We didn't focus on pounding the ball down low and settled to quickly for outside shots. The Spartans did win the points in the paint battle 28-26, but a lot of those points were off of offensive rebounds. We can't expect Durrell Summers to go 8-12 from the 3-pt line like he did in the two previous games. Instead, we need to pound the ball inside and get Suton more involved.
3) Rebounding - Yes, MSU won the rebounding battle, but only by a +5 margin (35-30). This was one of the Spartans' worst outings of the year and ultimately it hurt them. Was there no bigger rebound than Cornley's off of his own miss at the free throw line with 50 seconds left. How does the free throw shooter get an offensive rebounder against a Michigan State team? That was crazy.

What Went Well for MSU:
1) Delvon Roe - His first half of play was probably one of his best so far this year. He scored all 8 of his points on 4-4 shooting during that time. He didn't score in the second half however.
2) Goran Suton - Despite finishing 4-8, I thought Suton played well. He finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds, which I thought was pretty decent seeing how the offense was not going through him at all. He also had two key three pointers that helped us slow down the momentum of the Nittany Lions.
3) Kalin Lucas - I know he finished 7-21, but I think that he still played better than that stat line suggests. Obviously his shots weren't falling, but he had no support from the other guards on the team. He took it upon himself to get us back in the game and he nearly pulled it off by getting to the foul line and converting 9-10 attempts. On this day, however, Talor Battle got the best of him.

Coaching Issues (Notice how they are all the exact same as my post after the Northwestern game)
1) We Ignored Our Bigs - After the game, Izzo commented how his players were relying outside shooting too much, but I didn't see him trying to establish an offensive inside presence at all. We shot 20 threes and probably a half of a dozen more just inside the arc. Summers winds up 1-8 from the 3-pt line and we only win the points in the paint battle by 2 points (28-26). If Izzo doesn't make a consistent effort to get the ball down low, we are going to continue to lose to lower ranked teams. We cannot keep blaming our unexpected losses on an outstanding performance of one player. We need to have more outstanding offensive performances of our own players.
2) Clock Management - Again, Izzo started fouling way earlier than I would have in another loss. Understandably, with 4:19 to go Izzo wanted to get Penn State into the bonus so that we can better manage the clock. But, we were down 9 at that point and I would argue why not just play really aggressive defense and try to get a steal. We were not doing that. We were going hack-a-Shaq on these guys and just wasting fouls. Then, at one point, we got the lead down to 5 with 2:30 left and Izzo was still fouling! Why!! Can't we play good defense and then get a good shot to cut it to 2 or 3 with around 1:30 left? That doesn't make sense. I don't care if Penn State shoots 64% as a team. If you keep putting them on the line, they are going to eventually make a few of them. Ultimately, I will concede that this strategy did not hurt us, but if he continues to do this, it will hurt us in the future.
3) Substitutions - I have an excellent example to my rant earlier about how there is no rhyme or reason to Izzo's substitutions. With 12:55 left and we were down by 7, we had the following lineup in for almost one full minute: Lucious, Allen, Walton, Green, and Gray. Then for the next full minute, he replaced Lucious with Summers. What are we supposed to do with these lineups? How are we in any position to come back against a quality opponent when we have these squads in for two minutes? And then putting Raymar in the game during crunch time was nothing more than an act of despiration. If he could have helped you, he would have played before the end of the game.
4) X's and O's - As much as I hate Izzo's drawn up plays, I was surprised to see a somewhat organized offensive set to get Chris Allen an open three-point attempt to win the game. It was a good look and it would have given Allen a ton of confidence for the future if he hit that shot. The problem was, however, that we should have either had Lucas penetrate hoping for a foul or get it down low to one of the bigs. In the end, Lucas had a big rebound, was fouled, but couldn't convert on both free throws to win it.
5) Pressure Defense - After seeing a higher pressure defense against Iowa, I was hoping that we would continue that against Penn State. For some reason, the coaching staff didn't want to go in that direction. Maybe they are worried about our guys getting into foul trouble? I say every time that you have Lucious in there, I want him harassing the ball at all times. If he picks up a few fouls, who cares?

"The game wasn't won or lost on Kalin Lucas' free throw, it was won or lost when we were seven up and we just decided not to guard." --Tom Izzo

Besides Talor Battle playing phenomenally, I would argue that the reason we didn't win was because our offense was largely ineffective. We went over 4 minutes without a basket in the second half. Izzo even said himself that you can't do much defensively when opponents are hitting 35 foot threes and banking in threes. So which one is it? Therefore, I don't think defense was as much of a factor as our inability to score was.

"I've never seen two losses with banked-in threes, 35-foot threes." --Tom Izzo

As the saying goes, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice and shame on me.

"Sometimes when you're playing more young guys, I think they just live in the watching of the TV where Michigan State always wins at home. You win at home because you work. You don't win at home because you're supposed to. It's an entitlement society, as we all know, and I think our players kind of feel that the past players pioneered their way through, and it's an entitlement that we're supposed to win at home"

--Tom Izzo on losing two consecutive home games.

This is starting to be a recurring theme for Spartan teams. I think that I have heard this multiple times about every MSU basketball team since 2001. Some of the responsibility has to be on the coach.

That's Ridiculous
1) Michael Phelps Pictured Smoking Tree - Apparently America's golden boy got lit up at a University of South Carolina off-campus party after a football game last fall. Even more funny are the quotes found in the story:

“He looked just as natural with a bong in his hands as he does swimming in the pool. He was the gold medal winner of bong hits. Michael ended up getting a little paranoid, though, because before too long he looked like he was nervous and ran out of the place.”
This isn't surprising. I was surprised last summer when I saw how every news show, including 60 Minutes, conviently omitted Phelps' DUI arrest in Ann Arbor in 2004. I guess we should all take comfort in the fact that at least he is owning it.

2) Superbowl MVPs Smoke Tree Too - In addition to being the most decorated Olympian, kids also learned that they can smoke pot and also being a Superbowl MVP. Thank you for that Santonio Holmes.

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