MSU doubled up the UAPB Golden Lions on Friday night, putting together an impressive performance at both ends of the court in the process. Tom Izzo was able to play his whole roster extended minutes, with only Denzel Valentine and Eron Harris exceeding 20 minutes played. For the most part, MSU showed a commitment to the things which give this team a chance to contend both nationally and in the Big Ten…ball movement, quick offensive play, sound defense and controlling of the backboards. If you do all of those things well, you’re very tough to beat and UAPB was nowhere nearly up to that challenge tonight.
Reviewing the keys:
1. Play the Game, not the opponent – Always something you watch for when a major game like KU is followed by a supposed walk-over like this one. One would hope motivation is high among MSU players because roles and rotations are still being determined, so any game presents an opportunity to cement your place going forward.
RESULT – But for about an 8-10 minute stretch in the second half, I thought MSU did a very good job of this. Part of what helped is that Izzo was able to substitute so liberally and everyone who saw the floor seemed to be motivated and focused on playing hard and (for the most part) smart basketball. I thought MSU respected the game and the opponent about as well as you could hope for in this game.
2. Guard the arc – UAPB has not been a good shooting team from three so far, nor were they very good last season, but they do take a LOT of shots from deep (just under half of their overall attempts so far in two games), so it’s fair to expect it to be a big part of what they try to do in this game and MSU will need to be aware of that and contest those shots with consistency.
RESULT – The overal numbers here were respectable…MSU gave up a 6-20 performance from deep to UAPB, and most of those makes were either contested or NBA type threes, which you’ll normally live with. There were occasional lapses in the second half (Iz got all over Deyonta Davis for not staying in contact with Love, who is 6’9″ but a shooter for them…DD will learn from that) but overall, I’d say MSU held up reasonably well.
3. Boards – I said at the season’s outset that I thought this MSU team had a chance to be better overall in rebounding despite losing a great individual boarder in BJ Dawson. Through an incredibly small sample to date, they’re looking as if they may make good on that potential. UAPB was terrible on the glass last season and they’re off to a bad start this year as well. You would hope MSU is able to control the glass in this game.
RESULT – An annihilation. MSU won the overall battle 45-14 but more importantly had 18 offensive boards to just 3 for the Golden Lions. That tells the story in this area right in that one stat. It was a balanced effort for MSU as well. Costello had 10 boards in just 19 minutes, a phenomenal rebound rate. Was nice to see Eron Harris stick his nose in there and grab 5. That’s something he didn’t do well at WVa but there’s no physical reason he can’t be effective as a guard rebounder.
4. Post Touches – I really liked what MSU got out of Matt Costello against KU when he was on the floor. It’s unclear when MSU will get back Gavin Schililng but there are no indications it’ll be in time for this game, so it probably comes down to Matt and DD in the post again, with some help on the blocks from Jevon Bess as well. MSU isn’t going to make post play a massive part of its offensive game but it is significant and if it continues to improve it’ll make everything else they want to do easier. UAPB is far from a great team but they do have some size, so it presents an opportunity to work on this part of the offense and hopefully continue to get some good results.
RESULT – I liked what MSU in attacking that UAPB zone and the big kids saw the ball plenty. Costello was once again aggressive and effective when he was on the floor. DD had a strong close to the game. I thought perhaps the most impressive guy was Bess. His 16 points led MSU and he was 6-7 from the floor and showed a knack for finding space in good positions around the basket. Impressive stuff from him.
5. Harris – Just want to see improvement from Eron. Tuesday was mostly a disaster for him…he showed some poor shot selection and really struggled to guard anybody. I remain optimistic that at some point, things are going to click for him and he’ll emerge as the player most (including his coach) expected him to be, and every game is an opportunity to start getting back on track. This one is no different in that regard.
RESULT – Best performance so far from Eron, IMO. I still don’t think he’s where he can or will be…he got lost defensively once or twice, though this was his best sustained effort in that area. I liked the aggressiveness he showed at times on offense and the combination of his willingness to get to the rim and ability to hit free throws will pay off down the line for this team. As in earlier games, though, I also like the way he’s passing the ball. He’s shown a better knack than I’d expected for creating opportunities and then finding teammates…had a really nice one at the rim to Bess in the first half. I don’t think he’s fully turned the corner yet but I look at this game as a clear step in the right direction.
1. PT – MSU got 14 guys onto the court and everyone played at least 4 minutes. 9 guys saw double digit minutes and Colby just missed with 9 mp. That’s great from a host of perspectives. MSU continues to build confidence with this whole group, Izzo got to play around some with different lineups, and everybody stayed fresh.
2. Ball movement – I’m seeing some folks here comparing MSU to the Warriors. While that’s a tall order, I have to admit, there are times when MSU gets into that territory, with the way the ball moves crisply around the halfcourt without ever touching the floor and inevitably ends in a wide open look. 26 assists on 33 field goals made is a solid number and this is exactly how this team needs to play offensively. They are built for that kind of continuous and contageous passing game.
3. MARV! – Talk about a pleasant surprise, to see Marvin on the court for 5 minutes. He got some PT under his belt, contributed with a bucket and a couple of boards and that’s a great, great sign. Just another piece to the puzzle back in place. Now, where he fits and to what extent, we’ll begin to find out next week hopefully, but good to see him back.
4. Boards – Look, UAPB is a poor rebounding team, so let’s not get carried away, but this was about as dominant a performance as you can have against any stiffer test than thin air. I really like the way Matt Costello in particular is attacking the ball off the glass this year. Just feels as if he’s hitting a little different level of confidence overall and his rebounding is one area reflecting that improvement.
5. Zel – 7, 7 and 11 assists…ho-hum, right? What I like is that he didn’t have his shot falling (2-9 and just 1-8 on threes) but he didn’t force things at all, I thought. That’s exactly what you want from your leader and best player…feel the game and play it accordingly and I thought he did that tonight.
6. Defense – Not perfect by any means but overall, another decent performance. UAPB does have some guys who can play…they only lost by 14 to Oklahoma State and were within single digits fairly late in that game.36/30% is a decent night’s work no matter who the opponent is and I thought for the most part MSU did a solid job contesting shots and avoiding foul bailouts.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. TOs – 14 is too many, bottom line. There was some loose play at times which you just don’t want to see from MSU.
2. Free Throws – The KU game reprsented a step forward…this one at least a half step back. MSU shot 65% as a team. You did have some guys who aren’t likely to play much contribute mightily to that, but the one guy I think needs to be conscious of getting better is Javon Bess. He went 4-7 and the thing is, with the way he plays and the minutes I think he’ll see, I suspect he’s going to find himself at the line a decent amount this winter. MSU needs him to be a 70% plus guy and I think he’s got that in him.
So, MSU had a fairly productive Friday night all things considered. Now they move onto a matchup with Eastern Michigan on Monday night at Breslin before heading out to Southern California for the Wooden Classic.