Overall, a reasonably solid opening effort for MSU. They led by 22 at the half and then the second stanza was up and down, but for the most part there’s a lot to be encouraged by.
Reviewing the keys:
1. Health – MSU is already missing Marvin Clark and Gavin Schilling for this game. Heading into Kansas next week, you’d like to see the roster remain intact beyond the losses which have already occurred, particulalry inside.
RESULT – Looks good. Didn’t see anyone get banged up.
2. Pace – FAU was a slow paced team last season and I’d expect them to not look to get into a transition dominated game with MSU in this one. MSU has to push aggressively after makes and misses in order to maximize its advantages in talent, athleticism and depth.
RESULT – I thought MSU was aggressive in looking to push the ball most of the night. Mission accomplished there, IMO.
3. Rotations – This is the first real game and thus should be the first one where we see Izzo actually start to put together the rotations and playing groups he’ll rely on for the season. With a couple of guys out, this certainly won’t be the way it goes for the rest of the season in totality, but I think we’ll see player combinations start to come together.
RESULT – Not 100% sure a lot got done here, as Izzo played everybody and the minutes were distributed fairly liberally.
4. Glass – Always a key, FAU was a poor rebounding team last season and their lack of overall size suggests they may not be much better this time around. In the past, we’ve seen MSU have more trouble than they’d like against undersized opponents, and I think it’s critical that guys like Zel, Bess, Harris, and Forbes all chip in on the boards and prevent many guard rebounds for the Owls.
RESULT – Huge advantage for MSU, more than doubling up FAU overall and had an 18-5 edge on the offensive glass. DD was a big, big part of this but MSU had 5 guys with at least 5 boards.
5. Ball Movement – The key to MSU’s offensive success last year (and most years, frankly)was the quality of ball movement. When MSU passed the ball quickly and with a purpose, good shots tended to result and makes tended to follow at a nice clip. They’ve looked sharp in this area for the most part in the two exhibition games…time to covert that to a game under the real lights.
RESULT – Good as usual. At times I thought MSU might have even overpassed a bit but by and large, they were generating open looks and they did have some truly special passes in certain moments. 25 assists on 30 baskets is a rate you’ll take every time.
1. Post Players – A really strong night for MSU’s big kids, even without two eventual pieces of that puzzle. Matt Costello was consistently productive throughout the night, putting up 15 and 7. I thought he ran the floor well, showed some good assertive post moves and generally held it down well. Deyonta Davis had a great, great debut. DD had 13 and 11 with 5 blocks. He was active at both ends and pulled down 8 offensive boards, proving himself to be an absolute menace to the Owls. He struggled to finish some putbacks and you could see where his upper body strength will pose some issues for him, but overall it was a really nice night for him. Javon Bess was quietly impressive as well. He had 9 and 6 and made one sensational drive and dish inside to DD for a dunk that I thought was one of the highlight plays of the night. I think that’s an indication of what we’ll get from him…steady, sound play and good production. Wollenman and Goins didn’t look out of place but didn’t get a lot done in the way of production, but when they’ll be your 6th and 7th options up front, that’s a pretty good place to be once everyone is healthy.
2. Zel – 13, 8 and 9 for the Spartan’s leader and yet I didn’t feel it was a lights out game for him, just a decent one. There will be better nights but the scary thing is that an “eh” sort of game saw that much production.
3. Boards – FAU was not a good rebounding team last year and doesn’t have much reason to think it’ll be markedly improved this season. However, you still have to actually go out there and do the job and MSU did that very, very well. 18 offensive rebounds is a great number no matter who you’re playing.
4. Ball Movement – As noted above, 25 feeds on 30 baskets gets you a passing grade any time. I thought a lot of different guys showed off the way they can make plays for others…Zel did it but that’s his deal. I thought Tum was good there. Was really impressed by a couple of other guys though…Bess had that great dish to DD I mentioned above and then a subtle one late…Matt McQuaid made a really nice post entry to DD for a basket that I thought was very impressive because it was on time and led him perfect into the basket.
5. Defense – 34/25% against is solid statistically but I thought particularly in the first half MSU checked very well on the perimeter. Of course, the 12 blocks they racked up as a team was also impressive and you could see how Deyonta Davis can change a game at that end with his length and timing.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. TOs – Not a horrendous performance but 13 is a wee bit high. Nothing I’m overly concerned about, as that rash of traveling calls in the first half just looked like first night over-anxiousness to me as much as anything else.
2. Free Throws – Not good enough. Bryn and Zel went a combined 2-5. If they’re making all of those attempts, the team numbers look a lot healthier. Not worried yet but given how last year went, it’s going to be something people focus on until the performances level out at a higher rate.
So, all in all a decent first night’s work and now MSU can get ready for a much stiffer test on Tuesday night against Kansas.