Oh, What a (Horrific) Night: North Carolina 89, Michigan State 82

On a night when it appears the bottom may have fallen out of the MSU football team, I guess a single-digit loss on the home floor of the most dominant college basketball program in the country isn't quite so worthy of teeth gnashing.

But it was still mighty painful.

North Carolina almost literally couldn't miss in the first half, building a 50-34 lead on 64.3% two-point shooting and 60.0% three-point shooting.  MSU scrapped in the second half, getting the lead down to as low as 6 in the final 2 minutes.  But the basketball gods seemed predisposed against us, as break after break went the other way.  (Example: Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan running into each other on a back court steal opportunity that would have resulted in the lead being cut to 4.)

Given how well the Tarheels played on offense--not just taking full advantage of their height inside (36 points for Ed Davis and Deon Thompson on 22 FGA) but hitting from the perimeter, as well (18 points for Larry Drew II on 7 FGA)--you could argue that MSU shouldn't hang its head over this one.  They did manage to score 82 points in a 78-possession game.

But what disappointed me--and the reason I don't think this loss can be easily swept away--is the lack of composure shown by the Spartan players at key moments.  With the amount of experience MSU has among its perimeter players, they needed to do a better job of knowing when to push things and when to step back and let the game settle down.  Kalin Lucas made more out-of-control plays than he has since he was a freshman, taking ill-advised off-balance shots (6-17 from the field) and narrowly avoiding turnovers after dribbling into crowds in the lane.  I credit Raymar Morgan for his aggressiveness on offense (18 points on 10 FGA) but he also made some very poor decisions along the way (5 turnovers).  And the 2-20 three-point shooting line the team posted was a sign, to me, of a lack of confidence.

MSU was the veteran team in this game, but (until the final couple minutes) they could never take the role of aggressor away from the less-experienced Tar Heels.

Bullets (unofficial box score is here):

  • 18-54 FG shooting from the four MSU guards.  So much for the best back court in the country.
  • Draymond Green is the one constant on this team: 13 points on 8 FGA, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, zero turnovers.  He did end up fouling out against the taller UNC post players, but his position defense was quite good for most of the game.
  • Had to be tough for Delvon Roe to foul out against the guys he declined to be the teammates of.  10 rebounds and 5 steals for Roe, though.  A couple pretty explosive moves to the basket, too.
  • Credit to Durrell Summers for bouncing back from a horrible start to end up with 16 points on 17 FGA.  Only Spartan to hit a 3-pointer tonight.  (Lucious hit a couple very long 2-pointers early on.)
  • Chris Allen, on the other hand, never recovered from his early 3-point misses.  Complete non-/negative factor late in the game.  Allen is now a combined 6-21 from the field in the 3 games against quality opposition.  Very worrisome.
  • 5 assists to zero turnovers for Korie Lucious, but 0-5 three-point shooting was a killer.
  • Didn't we used to have, like, a bunch of set plays?  Way too much one-on-one play tonight.  The failure to get a shot off after the timeout with 13 seconds left on the shot clock (and the lead at 8, I think) was particularly grating.  Have to pin a little of that on Tom Izzo (although I'll go easier on him than I did in the Florida game recap).
  • Not sure what to say about the defense.  Hopefully, we don't face many more teams this season that can take advantage of our lack of height like UNC did tonight.  Seems like a limiting factor once we get to NCAA Tournament time, though--unless Green and Roe can get really, really good at position defense or Garrick Sherman and Derrick Nix make some really big strides over the next three months.
  • If I'd have told you before the the game the team would post a TO% of 14.1%, would you have said we'd win?  Yeah, you would have.

 

At this point, I think expectations have to be reset.  This is not a top-5 team right now--and it's not going to be at any time in the immediate future.  They've got four games to get things together before the final shot at a quality nonconference win away from home (vs. Texas on the 22nd).

As I mentioned in the links section of the game thread, I'm starting to tire of the constant discussion of whether MSU basketball is "elite."  Time to step back, build a cohesive team, and maybe be in a position to start to compete for a Big Ten title a month from now.

Next up: The Wofford Terriers visit the Breslin Center.  Friday at 7:00.  Big Ten Network.

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