MSU led from wire to wire in a complete mismatch at the Breslin Center, pounding the Binghamton Bearcats by a 76-33 margin. MSU actually wasn’t as sharp offensively as we’ve seen, missing a lot of open looks throughout the game but a solid defensive effort helped the Spartans to an easy victory.
Reviewing the keys…
1. Play The Game – I’ve said this a few times this year, as MSU’s non conference schedule has veered from serious tests (KU, the Wooden Legacy games and Louisville) to mismatches (the rest). Thus far, they’ve done a pretty good job against lesser opponents in terms of playing with energy and focus. Every game is an opportunity to establish and/or maintain habits, both good and bad. That has to be the primary goal coming out of this game…play MSU basketball the way MSU wants to and execute at both ends.
RESULT – The energy level was plenty fine, as MSU played hard. I think the focus at both ends was pretty good as well. Defensively…well, anytime you hold a team to 33 points on 16.7% from the floor, you’ve brought focus. Offensively, I don’t think it was a focus issue, as MSU was generating open shots all day…they just didn’t shoot particularly well. That’ll happen. Overall, MSU did a nice job of playing the Game.
2. Glass – MSU continues to re-establish its bona fides as the nation’s best rebounding program, and the effort against Louisville was just one more step down that path. Binghamton is a small team which has been getting whipped on the glass by its low D1 opposition thus far…no reason for MSU to not completely control the backboards in this game.
RESULT – MSU was OK…not great. 20 rebound edge overall but only 12-9 on the offensive glass. Certainly wasn’t a negative per se but you didn’t come away from this game feeling as if MSU just wiped these guys out, the way they did a UAPB, for example.
3. Pace – Izzo mentioned in the Louisville post game presser that MSU didn’t get up quite as many shots as they’ve set as a per game target (think the number is in the mid 60s, IIRC). I would think Binghamton is absolutely going to look to slow this game down and prevent MSU from running up and down the floor and in general playing a quick game. To allow the Spartans to do that could mean a blowout of epic proportions. So, it’s incumbent upon MSU to be insistent in pushing the tempo and playing the game the way they want to. Now, Binghamton normally does look to play fast…they’ve been known to press and want to get up and down the floor. I don’t think they’ll try to do that against MSU but if they do, it could make the Spartans’ job in this area easier.
RESULT – I thought MSU really tried to push the ball, to varying degrees of success. Part of the reason MSU only got 64 shots up had to do with the quality of their halfcourt defense, IMO, as Binghamton was regularly forced to take the shot clock to near exhaustion. I liked the way Tum was pushing in particular, but given how the game evolved it was difficult for MSU to get it fully into transiton.
4. Deep Ball – This is another game where MSU comes in with a massive advantage from three. Binghamton only shoots a shade under 30% from outside the arc as a team. There should be a good deal of separation between the two teams in this area of the game.
RESULT – NO problem with the defense, as Binghamton shot 11.8% for the game, going 2-17. On the other end, it was just one of those days for MSU. They were 7-26 from deep for 27%, so nowhere near the level of production we’ve come to expect from this team, and the misses were pretty much all on great looks. Sometimes it happens…nothing to be overly concerned about but disappointing in a micro sense.
5. Playing group – If MSU can get control established early, this should present an opportunity for a lot of guys to play substantial minutes, and there are a few who could use it. I think Eron Harris can stand to play more extended minutes as he continues to try to round his game, particularly on the defensive end, into shape. Marvin Clark and Javon Bess can use extended minutes as well, with Marv still looking to shake off some rust and Javon needing a good performance to get back on track after a couple of low output outings.
RESULT – It’s tough. Izzo wants to establish a rotation but I honestly don’t know how he’s going to do it other than just making a decision based on his instinct and going with it. MSU’s got a lot of guys who are doing enough to suggest that they’ve earned a regular turn, but how can you begin to sort out a regular pecking order based on what we’ve seen? From a rest perspective, this was great for MSU as only Zel and Eron exceeded 20 minutes in this game. That also means lots of guys got opportunities to play today, which is also normally a positive…and yet, you sense that Izzo really would prefer to have something decided for him by the players. I don’t think that’s happened yet.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. Defense – Yeah, Binghamton is young and not very good but c’mon…sub 20% from the floor and 33 points> I don’t care if that’s a HS JV team, that’s a good day’s work on the defensive end. You can only play the guys in front of you and I thought MSU was sound in terms of penetration denial and they were challenging shooters consistently as well. It wasn’t just about field goal percentage either…MSU was regularly forcing the Bearcats to go deep into the clock, which tells you that they were focused and staying locked in throughout long possessions.
2. Zel – Just your everyday 13/12/4 game from MSU’s superstar. He probably could easily have had double the assist total if guys had shot at their normal rate. I think the biggest thing from him today was the way he rebounded…you could see he was really going after every possible board and was locked in.
3. Ball movement – 24 assists on 30 baskets tells a lot of the story but MSU was great all day and just missed a lot of good looks…so both assist and point totals probably should have been signficantly higher.
4. Opening Tap – What a beautiful play…ball never touched the floor. We’ve seen that many times from MSU, going back to the Mideast Regional final against Notre Dame in 1979 but it’s been awhile since the Spartans have executed on that one.
5. Bryn off the bounce – We’ve seen him do this with more regularity of late and that’s a big element for him and for this team if he can keep it up. That’s where that increased strength comes into play, with the ability to finish in traffic.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. Shooting – Not a disaster, just one of those days, but calling a spade a spade, MSU’s jumpers weren’t falling the way you’d normally expect them to in this game. The quality of look was plenty fine, too, so it wasn’t that…they just missed a lot of makable shots.
MSU did what they had to do…played hard, did some solid things defensively and kept rolling. You’re almost certainly looking at the nation’s #1 team come Monday, so enjoy it.