As Michigan State fans, I believe most of us get nervous before Wisconsin games. They lull the opponents to sleep when they're on offense, and play voracious man-on-man defense (and let it be known Wisconsin - I respect you for playing straight man-on-man. At least you're not degenerates from Northwestern or Michigan who believe in the heathen 1-3-1 zone). For as good as Wisconsin's been offensively this season, this game was a classic MSU-UW battle - tenacious defenses, with the first team to 50 winning the game. Luckily today, this team was MSU, and the good guys prevailed with a 54-47 win.
Four factors graph and player breakdown after the jump.
As always, the four factors:
Michigan State needed to win the rebound battle, and win it they did. A 34.4% OR% is below MSU's average for the season, but against the top defensive rebounding team in the nation, that percentage is awesome. Also jaw-dropping: MSU's free throw rate was above 70%. I can't recall any team ever having a rate that high.
Your three Spartan stars for tonight are:
- Chris Allen - 16 points, 6 rebounds, and went 2-2 on his threes. For the first time I can remember, Chris Allen was the main contributor in a Spartan win. He was the main Spartan aggressor on offense, and looked positively fearless. Let this be a sign of things to come.
- Draymond Green - 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists. Ho hum - another game, another great performance off the bench from Green. He looked a little sluggish in the first half, but reverted back to his typical Swiss Army Knife self in the second.
- Kalin Lucas - Bad shooting night (3-13 from the field), Bad night for A/T ratio (one assist to three turnovers), but performed well in the final four minutes, and made all four of his free throws on the night.
Honorable Mention: Durrell Summers (dreadful night offensively, but led the team with eight rebounds), Raymar Morgan (had a couple of key plays, even if his normally decent free throw shooting was lacking tonight), and Korie Lucious (didn't score, but had three assists to one turnover, and led the only fast break in the game).
Jon Leuer had a slow first half, but was as advertised in the second half for the Badgers. 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks is dang good for a big man. Without him, Wisconsin's a borderline NIT team, with him, they're a 5-6 seed. He needs to learn when not to foul, but he's got the perfect coach for that in Bo Ryan, and he's got an early spot on my All Big Ten team. None of the other Badgers shot over 40% from the field tonight, and here's a tip for Wisconsin in future games: pass more to Jason Bohannon. I cringe whenever he touches the ball, and that's a good thing for your team.
Enough about, the individuals, let's talk about the Spartans as a team. MSU held Wisconsin to 47 points on 59 possessions, and that's a defensive efficiency of 79.7 against the 11th ranked team in offense by Pomeroy. We've been waiting for a defensive performance to show us whether the Spartans were a Final Four team, and we saw it tonight. The switches were quick, the pressure was constant, and although they didn't force Wisconsin into an abnormal amount of turnovers (their TO% tonight was 16.9% compared to their season average of 16.2%), they held the Badgers to an EFG% of under 40%, and that'll win you games 9 times out of 10.
Well, I'm tired, so I'll leave the rest of you to discuss how awesome the result of the game was tonight, even if watching it occasionally made your eyes bleed. Next up are the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, and despite their record so far, at least we know that they're REAL AMERICANS.
P.S. A thousand pardons for forgetting to mention the 850 Izzone Alumni in the house tonight, THEY WERE FANTASTIC. The chants were right on, their shot clock counts were befuddling, and their applause at any time the game was tied was spot on. I'm sure LVS will have a first-person account of how it was there tomorrow, but it sounded great on TV. In the words of Orson Swindle/Spencer Hall, +100 cocktails to all of you.
P.P.S - If you're wondering who was helping head up the Izzone alumni event (from The State News:)
“We didn’t really know what to expect. For a weekday game, we didn’t know how tough it would be for travel purposes but in the first 12 hours we sold 400 tickets,” SAF Young Alumni Coordinator and former MSU basketball player Tim Bograkos said. “At that point we knew we had something special going.”
Doesn't it make you feel a lot safer knowing that Bograkos is still involved?