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Can't Handle the Pressure: Florida 77, Michigan State 74

In two years of blogging about this basketball team, I'm pretty sure I've never said anything like this:

This loss is on Tom Izzo.

When an unranked opponent shoots 5-24 from 3-point range, you simply have to find a way to win.  And it's not like we didn't know Billy Donovan was going to throw the 2-2-1 press and the 2-3 zone out against us.  Yet you could count on one hand the number of times it looked like the MSU players had a specific game plan for how to beat those schemes for easy baskets--despite a full four days of preparation time.  The easy baskets that were created seemed more like a function of individual playmaking (e.g., Lucious passes on the drive in the first half) than by any cohesive plan of attack.

Having Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan at less than 100% certainly didn't help, but there are still four starter-quality players on this team that should be able to make plays handling the ball against pressure: Korie Lucious, Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, and Draymond Green.  Instead, the game plan to beat the press ended up being "Give Kalin Lucas the ball and let him beat the press with the dribble."  And that didn't work so well when Florida was able to deny Lucas the ball on the in-bounds pass.  So you end up with Durrell Summers trying to back his man down the court and barely getting bailed out by a timeout call.

It doesn't happen often, but Tom Izzo got outcoached tonight.  The result was a turnover percentage of 32.4% and a much-deserved loss.

Man, I really don't want to spend another season pondering why the team turns the ball over with such regularity.

From a statistical standpoint, perhaps I'm being too harsh about the lack of a well-executive offensive game plan.  After all, MSU did manage to score over a point per possession (71-possession game).  That was a function of efficient two-point shooting (61.7%) when they did manage to beat the Florida defensive pressure and stellar offensive rebounding (60.0% OffReb% [!]).  Just imagine if we'd turn the ball over on, say, just 25% of our possessions.

Defensively, the Gators got to 77 points despite barely shooting over 20% on two dozen attempts from beyond the arc.  They turned the ball over on only 15.5% of their possessions, scored proficiently in the paint (54.1% 2pt%), and got to the free throw line frequently, knocking down 22 of 25 shots from the line.  The MSU defenders were much to quick to reach for the ball on drives by Florida players, picking up a series of bad fouls late in the game.


Bullets (official box score is here):

  • Despite having to leave the game early due to the problem with his foot, Kalin Lucas put up 20 points on 11 FG attempts.  He was at his best scoring the ball tonight.  Only 1 assist vs. 3 turnovers, though.
  • Draymond Green and Delvon Roe combined for 28 points on 13-17 FG attempts.  They were the finishers on the plays when MSU was successful in beating the defensive pressures.  Plus they worked hard on the boards--Green, in particular (11 rebounds, 5 on the offensive end).  Unfortunately, they were also the culprits on some of the bad defensive fouls.
  • And Green/Roe weren't terribly unsuccessful in defending the Florida interior scorers.  Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin, and Chandler Parsons were the most efficient scorers for the Gators, scoring 35 points on 22 FG attempts.  I'm very concerned with how we guard the North Carolina big men on Tuesday.
  • Durrell Summers was pretty good tonight: 13 points on 10 FG attempts and 6 rebounds.  Unfortunately, he couldn't get one of those final two 3-point attempts to drop to send the game to OT.
  • Beyond the four guys, I've mentioned, the rest of the team scored just 14 points tonight.  That's a disturbing lack of balance.
  • Raymar Morgan could not get anything going against the size of the Florida front line.  And his jumper wasn't dropping.  Zero points on 7 FG attempts and 4 personal fouls.  Another thing to worry about for the UNC game.  On a positive note, he did post 5 assists tonight and played hard on both ends despite the lack of scoring performance.
  • I thought Izzo was a little harsh in his halftime comments about Korie Lucious, calling his play "atrocious."  He had a couple bad turnovers in the first half against the press, but he was also making aggressive plays to beat the Gator zone with the pass.
  • Bright spot: Austin Thornton.  4 points on 2 made jumpers, an assist, and two fouls drawn on box outs.  He and Garrick Sherman were the only MSU players to appear in this game and not turn the ball over.
  • Speaking of which: Five MSU players turned the ball over 3 or more times.  Ugh.

Next up: The University of Massachusetts (which lost to Rutgers 83-75 on the other side of the bracket) in the 3rd-place/consolation/losers-bracket game.  5:30 tomorrow night.  HDNet again.  I'll try to get what will likely be a very brief game preview up tomorrow morning/afternoon.

P.S. Michigan State has not won a nonconference tournament away from home since 1998.  And they haven't won the Big Ten Tournament since 2000.  Why do we play so poorly in tournaments contained within a single week?  We seem to do OK in the one that lasts more than one week.

P.P.S.  1-5 for the Big Ten today. Not good.