Ground Level: Michigan State 102, Nebraska-Omaha 72

Tonight I made my annual pilgrimage down to the second row of the Breslin Center, thanks to the generosity of my Great Benefactor With Second-Row Season Tickets.  When you watch a game from the second row of the arena--and you aren't used to doing so--the analysis that tends to run through your mind is, "Wow, these guys can jump."  From that vantage point, Durrell Summers looks like he's taking off to go join his Justice League buddies when he goes up for a dunk in traffic.

The other two guys whose hops were fairly astonishing from ground level were the two freshmen.  Adreian Payne goes from zero to hands above the rim in almost no time at all.  Tonight, he had 13 rebounds in 20 minutes.  This was an undersized opponent (MSU's rebounding percentages: 45.5, 80.0), but still, 6'10" with rapid liftoff is going to be a major asset.  Keith Appling, meanwhile, doesn't look too much taller than Korie Lucious.  But he definitely get up like a full-fledged wing player.  He somehow converted an alley-oop that looked doomed when it was thrown because of the defender right in the vicinity of the rim.  And he showed a nice knack for getting to rebounds, too (2 on offense, 5 on defense).  Overall, Appling looked quite a bit more comfortable in this game, finishing with 15 points on 6-8 FG shooting.

Elsewhere:

  • Kalin Lucas did his best Shawn Respert impression, scoring 25 points on 5-7 three-point shooting.
  • Draymond Green showed up with his full array of skills on display against his big brother: 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover, 1 block, 3 steals.  (On the other end of the brotherly showdown, Torian Harris did a pretty good job filling up the stat sheet, too: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block.  He got a technical-foul-drawing rim-bending dunk in toward the end.)  Green knocked down 2 of 4 three-point attempts.  FWIW, he looks a lot better shooting them when he's got time to fully set his feet.
  • Summers wasn't too efficient getting to double digits again this game (11 points on 14 FG attempts).  I think he'll find his rhythm more easily in games where his teammates have to rely on him a little more because things aren't opening up for everyone on the court.  He forced a few shots tonight.
  • Korie Lucious was a bit rusty (1-8 FG shooting, 3 TOs to go with 6 assists).  We'll see him next against South Carolina next Tuesday night.
  • Austin Thornton took open shots decisively again, which is the first condition for him to see significant playing time this season.
  • Garrick Sherman scored a couple nice-looking low post buckets in his first live action of the season.  I think it's fairly safe to say that he's not redshirting--and that Alex Gauna, who only saw 5 minutes, probably is.  With his combination of size and shooting touch, Gauna will be a major contributor to the program, but there's no reason not to give him a year to adapt to the speed of the college game in a practice setting.
  • Derrick Nix made 4 of 7 free throws.  So far, so acceptable on that front.  Improving decision making with the ball in his hands in the post (3 TOs) remains an area for improvement.
  • Delvon Roe was sick--which is a relief.  When I first saw him sitting on the bench in his warm-ups after the game had started, I was worried he had tweaked his knee in practice or something.
  • Anthony Ianni got the team over 100.

This was roughly an 81-possession game, so the offense was better than the defense.  There were too many easy baskets off turnovers (mostly early) and poor rotations (mostly later, some the result of large Spartans chasing small Mavericks), as UNO made 18 of 35 two-point attempts for the game.  Tom Izzo was pretty clearly upset about the team drifting some at the end of the game (MSU gave up 46 points in the second half); he called multiple timeouts late in the game after UNO baskets.  He singled out Payne in terms of defensive lapses; that's probably partly a function of knowing how valuable Payne is going to be if he can avoid basic errors on the defensive end.  And, of course, Tom Izzo wouldn't really be happy if he didn't have something to get upset about at this point in the season

Up Next: The regular season opener against Eastern Michigan on Friday night--8:30 on BTN.  (Sounds like the team will be without Mike Kebler.)  I promise at least one season preview post between now and then.

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