Sunday, March 1, 2009

Michigan State Clinches Share of Big Ten Title by Beating Illinois 74-66

Michigan State looked like a different team yesterday as they scored effectively throughout the game and clinched a share of the Big Ten title. Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 18 points and Raymar Morgan had 14.

Player of the Game: Kalin Lucas (18 points on 7-14 shooting)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Offense - Tom Izzo did a great job adjusting to the pressure of Illinois. We were able to get many baskets utilizing back door cuts. We also established our selves inside early and won the points in the paint battle 42-16. That is phenomenal. We also were able to convert some key Illini turnovers into points.
2) Kalin Lucas - He was back to his early Big Ten season form. He was able to score effectively and orchestrated the Spartan offense with ease. Early in the first half, Kalin was able to shut the Orange Krush up by answering momentum changing plays by the Illini with baskets of his own.
3) Raymar Morgan - Yesterday was the first game since his illness that I felt Raymar Morgan brought something to the table. He hustled and played well. He finished with 14 points in 22 minutes including a nice dunk in transition over Calvin Brock
4) Turnovers - Coach Izzo must have allowed his players to play more aggressive defense yesterday because we were able to force 17 Illini turnovers. Travis Walton had one of his best performances as a Spartan as he shut down McCamey and created numerous fast breaks after steals. He also shot the ball well finishing 4-5 from the field.
5) Defense - Although it wasn't stellar, the defense still played solidly. We won the rebounding battle, although only by 5, and we got some key minutes from I Dunk, I Block.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Chris Allen/Durrell Summers - I would have never imagined that we would have had such a great offensive game knowing how Chris Allen and Durrell Summers played in this game. Neither contributed very much which led Tom Izzo to let Travis Walton steal some of their playing time. Allen had more turnovers than baskets and Summers was 1-6 before his two late game dunks. These guys need to step their games up.

Yesterday's game felt different than any of the other games so far this year. Our offense looked very coordinated and we had almost every player contribute in some sort of way. Whatever Tom Izzo did this past week in practice truly had an effect because our players played inspired. They were beaming with confidence and it showed out on the court. Hopefully he can get this every night from now until the middle of April.

It still didn't quite feel like a true league championship, however. Maybe that will change on Tuesday night if we find a way to beat Indiana. Coach Izzo knows the importance of this game. In fact, the team isn't even going back to East Lansing. Instead, they left yesterday to go straight to Bloomington to avoid any unnecessary distractions. I think that is a great idea because this is the ultimate "trap" game.

Post-Game Quotes
"It was a panic decision. When we couldn't handle Tisdale. Ibok did a great job and stepped up for us." --Tom Izzo

I'd have to say that's one of the bigger wins I've been involved with. To clinch a share of it at a place that I have so much respect for... I thought we played, at times, some of our best basketball." --Tom Izzo

I agree. To win at Assembly Hall with the title at stake is an amazing accomplishment. The victory was much more than us just beating a #20 ranked team.

"This means a lot, but it's a share. We want to go to Indiana, play a good game and win it outright." --Travis Walton

I know you believe this T-Walt, but do your teammates? You better pound this into their head, because Indiana will be ready to knock off the Big Ten champs on Tuesday.

"With Izzo, fans might criticize his in-game decisions, but it's hard to knock his passion. I don't believe any coach is perfect, but it's hard to find anymore more perfect for MSU." Eric Lacy, The Detroit News

Very well said. As much as I criticize Coach Izzo, I agree with this statement. He is the face of the program and his passion trickled down and inspired our players yesterday.

Other Game Notes
1) Take It Easy Ref- Steve Olson missed the first few minutes of the second half due to illness. He went to the locker room, received IV fluids, and then returned to finish the game. A ref getting IV fluids is a little bit over the top for me. Just take a seat ref.
2) Tom Flailing on the Ground - In the second half, Tom Izzo was shown on his knees whining after Travis Walton fouled Chester Frazier on a 3-pointer. On his knees! What the hell? This is what Kirke from Wisconsin is talking about when he says that he can't respect how Tom Izzo conducts himself on the sideline.
3) Chester Frazier Wants to Coach - Link to the article here. Tom Izzo is quoted as saying that if Webber doesn't want him, the Spartans will take him. Speaking of which, it is about time that Coach gives Mateen a call and convinces him to join our staff. I always thought that he would make a good coach. Actually, now that UM-Flint is going to have athletics, Cleaves would be perfect for that.

That's Ridiculous
1. Sheyer Travelling - I'll quote Seth Greenburg from two years ago when Duke got away with similar calls against his Virginia Tech team: "Certainly, Duke is Duke. They are on tv more than Leave it to Beaver." Not only did Sheyer get away with it, he got to the line. Ri-dic-u-lous.

2) The Apprentice Cast - Dennis Rodman and Andrew Dice Clay on the same team. That's phenomenal. Too bad Dice got booted so early. The women's team, however, could have used a few more big names. One of the chicks on there is a model on Deal or No Deal. Another is a celebrity poker player. Apparently, Ricki Lake was not available.
3) Brandon Marshall Arrested - T.O. II was thrown in jail for disorderly conduct. He was allegedly involved in a fight in Atlanta. This is his fourth incident since March 2006

DVD Giveaway
Congratulations to Bryan of Fenton, MI who won "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for his prediction of yesterdays game. He anticipated a 7-point Spartan victory.

Tomorrow - Indiana Preview #2

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