What a mess.

Leon Halip

Some things explain themselves.

The Four Factors

Team ILL MSU
effective FG % 56.8% 45.7%
Turnover % 26.9% 29.6%
Offensive Reb % 22.6% 36.4%
Free Throw Rate 15.9% 23.9%
Turnovers are a real issue, now.

29.6% for MSU tonight. Closer to one out of every three possessions than even an already miserable one out of every four! 19% in a loss to Nebraska rose to nearly 22% in a loss to Michigan which rose again in today's loss. Sloppy mistakes abound, particularly crippling, because Illinois played an extremely loose game themselves and more cautious play-making by MSU could have made the difference in a tough game. That MSU's mistakes often provide opposing team's with dead-easy transition opportunities doesn't help one bit.

Hey, we won the free throw rate battle!!!

It didn't matter, strictly speaking, because we missed 7 of our 11 attempts, but we got to the line more than our opponent for like, the 4th time in 16 Big Ten games. Three cheers!

Defensive shine continues to wear off/another team shoots better than they should.

You know where opponents hit a bunch of heat check jump-shots and you go, "Ah, they're just hitting tough shots. No big deal." And then it happens the next game, and the next game, and the next, and you suddenly start wondering whether your opponents are actually just benefiting from your team's bad defense? I'm there. I'm there and I'm looking at another opponent hitting 40%+ of threes and wondering whether this is an extended run of nasty luck or some real defensive flaw that's going to knock us out of the tournament. As the data points pile up, I'm leaning towards 'real defensive flaw'.

Player bullets

Gary Harris: played very, very, well on both ends, but can't do it all by himself. You'd still like to see him drive more but it's impossible to complain about 5/10 3 point shooting.

Keith Appling- I don't know what Keith Appling is officially on his medical evaluations, but it's clear he's not as miraculously 'healthy' as billed. When Izzo is giving us these updates, he might as well throw in a candid "bee-tee-dubs, Keith can't shoot jump-shots today" because it's true.

He's shooting 12/28 (42%) from the free throw line since January 21st, three games before his wrist broke down enough to start ruling him out of games. Over that same span, he's 3/18 (16.7%) from behind the 3 point line. He, point blank, can't shoot right now.

Now, there's a very good reason for it, namely, his wrist is almost certainly still sending disruptive pain signals to his brain every time he tries to use it to propel a basketball 15-20 feet through the air, but my sympathy doesn't erase the data. That he grits his way to the basket for shots he can make right now, layups, is appreciated, right up until he gets fouled and put on the free throw line, when it's not really appreciated any more.

The player from the first 18 games who shot  46.7% (!) from 3 point range on about 3.4 attempts per game, and who shot 74% on 5.5 free throw attempts just doesn't exist right now, but, Izzo is still playing him 20-25 minutes a game. Izzo should take a real, long, look at whether that type of workload is helping, or hurting, both Appling, and the team.

Brandon Dawson- Provides instant impact with everything you'd expect out of Brandon Dawson (4 offensive rebounds, 2 steals, a transition dunk, a block) and struggled with everything you'd expect a man with a wrist cast on his shooting/ball-handling hand to struggle with (2-6 from the field,, 2 turnovers) . Very happy he's back, expect to see him make a real, increasing, impact over the next three weeks or so. Dawson is much of the reason to remain optimistic.

Gavin Schilling- On one hand, a pretty good start, two offensive rebounds, 7 points on 4 shots. On the other hand, he requires other people to create his offense for him, it's not like you can dump the ball into Schilling and let him go to work, which means having him and Appling or Dawson on the floor with him is troubling right now.

Adreian Payne: Just had a bad game, I think? Reacted very poorly to aggressive double teams from Illinois (2 assists, 4 turnovers) didn't play starter's minutes, and jammed his thumb or something at one point late in the game? Just 4 points, very uncharacteristic performance.

Kenny Kaminski: Totally M.I.A.  No shot attempts. 1 rebound. Nothing else. Is Izzo punishing him again?

Matt Costello: okay-ish numbers in limited minutes (2 pts, 2 rebs, a blk), though poor finishing at the rim cost him. Lost both the start and a chunk of minutes to Schilling. Again, is he in the doghouse for some reason or does Izzo just prefer Schilling at the moment?

Travis Trice: 0 points on one attempt, one rebound, one assist, no turnovers. He AND Appling can't play badly at the same time. Trice and Kaminski are almost desperately needed to break some of these zone looks open if Appling can't shoot.

Denzel Valentine: more than anything, over this ten game slide, the MSU offense seems to come and go based on whether Valentine is hitting his long jump-shots. That statement is more than a little concerning. Today, obviously, he didn't make those shots, and tossed 5 turnovers to negate his 4 assists.

Conclusion

Well, no real nice way to take the sting off this time. The chances of battling back and winning a share of the conference title seem laughable, and not just because we very much don't control our own odds anymore. And now more than any other point of the season, the feeling that the team that started off 18-1 has been replaced by a second, different, team that has just gone 4-6 is real. I can't polish the turd of back-to-back home losses to teams who are a combined 15-17 in Big Ten play. Hopefully, we see something over the next couple weeks that makes us feel better come tourney time, because I'm not feeling the groove right now.

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