Near Calamity: So I had the good fortune of sitting in the second row behind the scorer's table for the season opener. For a moment, though, my proximity to the court enhanced the panic that raced through my heart when Draymond Green went down with a leg injury of some sort after lunging at Reed Baker in the waning moments of the game. Green was looking right toward my section in the split second after the injury occurred. I could read his lips: "Oh, S---." And his body language was the language of a man who thinks his basketball season might be over. He was helped off the court and into the locker room with staffers supporting him on both sides.
Thankfully, he emerged from the locker room a few minutes later, strolling by my seat with no limp whatsoever on his way back to the bench. It must have been a cramp that felt like something of a more structurally-damaging nature (Rexrode confirms).
So, like, WHEW.
Elsewhere: A 39-point win is, of course, exactly what you want in a college basketball season opener. But I do have some concerns. Let's start with those. Big picture, the question marks about our interior play cropped up some in the first half. The Eagles made 9 of 15 two-point FG attempts (60.0%) before the break, and MSU only pulled down 5 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Those trends reversed themselves in the second half, as FGCU shot just 36.4% from inside the arc after the break and MSU posted a stellar offensive rebounding percentage of 47.8% (on 22 offensive rebounds) for the full game, but the lack of an experienced interior player taller than 6'8" could be an issue at times this season.
One of the reasons it may have been more of an issue tonight was that Delvon Roe looked decidely less than his normal self. He was clearly still rusty as a result of the concussion he suffered in the first exhibition game, shooting 0-2 from the floor and fouling out in just 13 minutes of play.
Raymar Morgan, meanwhile, made an unexpected appearance in this game, playing 9 minutes in the first half. Unfortunately, those minutes may have set him back in the confidence department. He missed all 4 shots he took from the field, as well as all 4 shots he took from the free throw line, and turned the ball over on a travelling call in transition. He sat out the second half with a bag of ice wrapped around his ankle (some combination of precauation and a tweak to the ankle, according to Rexrode). I don't think we can expect a significant contribution from him next Tuesday.
OK, on to the good stuff (Official box score is here.):
- The junior guards were on their games: 21 points for Kalin Lucas on 9-11 FT shooting, 17 points for Durrell Summers on 12 FG attempts (one more Rexrode note: ankle tweak, boo), and 10 points for Chris Allen on 8 FG attempts. Allen only shot 1-6 from behind the arc, but he showed very good judgment in terms of shooting the ball vs. pump faking and going toward the hoop.
- Despite the fact that Lucas almost always ran the point when both he and Korie Lucious were in the game, Lucious posted 8 assists vs. just 1 for Lucas. 11 points on 3-7 three-point shooting for Lucious, to boot, and his defense was outstanding, stealing the ball twice, blocking a shot, and forcing a 5-second call. As he continues to work back toward 100%, Lucious is going to be a superb spark plug off the bench on both ends of the court.
- Draymond Green stuffed the stat sheet: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 block, 1 steal. I predict he leads the Big Ten in good passes that don't show up as assists because the recipient of the pass gets fouled under the basket. (This prediction has the advantage of being unverifiable.)
- If ever the term "space eater" applied to a basketball player, it applies to Derrick Nix. 11 points and 14 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. The FGCU players couldn't do anything to get him out of the lane once he got position, and he ate them up in the second half. Has a nice knack for protecting the ball away from the basket with his body and then banking it in off the glass. Most rebounds ever by a Spartan in his freshman debut.
- Garrick Sherman was unspectacular but solid: 4 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes.
- Tom Herzog only played 7 minutes; he seems to have already fallen well below the two freshmen on the big man depth chart.
- 7 points in 9 minutes for Isaiah Dahlman, which is a major departure from his career points-scored-to-minutes-played ratio. Took his first 3-point shot with confidence when he entered the game in the first half; air-balled a shot from the corner in the second half, though.
- Apparently the Austin-Thornton-as-a-power-forward thing is at least a little bit real, as he played a few minutes at the 4 spot in the final 10 minutes of the game. Picked up two quick fouls on attempted rebounds (one on each end), though.
As expected, this was an up-tempo game: 78 possessions. So giving up 58 points was a pretty solid defensive effort from a points-per-possession perspective. Some of that was a function of the Eagles just flat shooting the ball poorly, though. They made only 4 of 20 three-point attempts and just 12 of 25 free throw attempts. Giving up 25 shots from the free throw line to the Eagles (FT rate= 43.9%) is a little concerning, again highlighting the potential interior defense issues. Reed Baker was stymied for most of the night, scoring only 9 points on 2-10 shooting from the field.
After a fairly slow start (FGCU led after 10 minutes), MSU eventually overwhelmed the smaller Eagles, as evidenced by the 37 shots Spartans took from the free throw line. FGCU threw some zone looks at MSU to try to compensate for their lack of size, but the MSU players were pretty efficient in taking the zone apart, moving the ball around the perimeter to get good 3-point looks. There were a couple bad turnovers early, but MSU's turnover percentage for the game (16.9%) was quite acceptable.
Next up: The level of resistance increases substantially. The Gonzaga Bulldogs. Next Tuesday night at 8:00. In the friendly confines of the Breslin Center. ESPN.
P.S. As we hoped, two banners for the pre-Izzo Final Four appearances have been added to the collection of five Izzo-era banners that were unveiled at Midnight Madness.
P.P.S. The backs of our jerseys are psychedelic, man.