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Their Specialty is Winning: Michigan State 57, Michigan 56

How to win a game while inflicting as much emotional trauma on your fans as possible:


That tiny little blue sliver is Michigan's turnover percentage of 6.7%: 4 turnovers in 60 possessions.  Only two Wolverine players turned the ball over: Stu Douglass (3) and Zack Novak (1).  But Michigan couldn't do too much with those 56 turnover-less possessions.  And a lot of that credit has to go to the MSU defense.

The game plan was clearly to sit back, try to keep Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims from getting good looks around the basket and hope no one else steps up to beat you.  Success: Harris and Sims combined to make just 8 of 21 two-point attempts.  The other Wolverines, meanwhile, attempted only 8 shots inside the arc (making 4) and hit just 3 of 19 three-point attempts.  The only Michigan player to get things going from the outside turned out to be Sims, who made 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc.  Harris, meanwhile, forced some long shots, making only 1 of 5 three-point attempts.

All those missed shots led to 38 opportunities for Michigan players to grab an offensive rebound.  Zack Novak pulled down 5 of those opportunities.  Twice the ball went out of bounds for a team offensive rebound.  Just once did a non-Novak Wolverine pull down an offensive rebound (Sims).

Getting back to the traumatic part of the four-factor graph from a Spartan perspective: MSU turned the ball over 3 out of every 10 times they had the ball.  Early on, I wasn't terribly concerned about the turnover issues because they were more a function of being too aggressive than being too tentative.  But MSU could never get into a consistent offensive rhythm and ended up making some pretty boneheaded turnovers, too.  The apparent lack of preparation for the 1-3-1 zone in the first half was particularly bothersome (as were the body checks the Michigan defender in the middle of the zone was allowed to make in going after the ball on several occasions).

MSU compensated for the whopping turnover gap by taking advantage of Michigan's lack of size inside, pulling down 11 of 28 offensive rebounding opportunities and getting a combined 13-15 shooting line out of the two guys (Morgan/Green) who manned the 4 spot vs. Novak at different times.

I'd love to know if any other team in the country has won a game this season (or in any recent season) with a turnover percentage deficit of 23 percentage points.  (Update: Kansas outdid us in this category. HTs: Beadlemaniacs and DC Royal.)

Player bullets (official box score is here):

  • Kalin Lucas was pretty bad early, scoring just 2 of the team's first 39 points.  But he's played in more big games than your average junior point guard, and he came up big late.  Lucas scored 10 of MSU's final 17 18 points--including the flat-out clutch jumper to put MSU up with 3.5 seconds left.  The shot was so pure the ball dropped through the net like it does in a video game.
  • Raymar Morgan couldn't have been much better.  He used his mismatch with Novak to keep MSU in the game in the first half, finishing the game with 20 points on 8-9 FG shooting and 8 rebounds (all defensive).  Morgan is now 32 for 42 from the field in the last 5 games.
  • Draymond Green was a bit too amped up for this game, turning the ball over 4 times.  Still a pretty productive day: 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block.  Key play to get MSU within one with a minute to go: offensive rebound plus assist to Morgan in the lane.
  • Durrell Summers couldn't buy a 3-pointer (0-4) but made 4 of his 5 shots from inside the arc and added 10 rebounds and 5 assists (!).  Played very good defense on Manny Harris.
  • Delvon Roe scored the 5 MSU points not scored by the four guys listed above.  Throwing the ball to him in a back-to-the-basket position is not working.  Along with Green, he did a good job of making DeShawn Sims work for his points, ultimately forcing him to float outside to knock down 3-pointers.
  • Chris Allen was wholly unproductive on offense: zero points, 2 assists, 3 turnovers.  He was the primary guy assigned to Harris, though, and did exactly what he needed to.  There was a great moment where Harris tried to drive by/into him and Allen just kept backpedaling to avoid making contact with him.  Harris finally ended up under the basket and had his shot blocked by the rim.
  • Korie Lucious didn't have it tonight: zero points, 1 assist, 4 turnovers.
  • I love Austin Thornton as much anyone, but I don't understand playing him 5 minutes in the game.  Michigan seemed to switch to the 1-3-1 whenever he was in the game.  Thornton was probably not going to knock down a 3-pointer over the zone, he tends to fare poorly against traps, and he doesn't have the foot speed to guard Harris.  Thankfully, nothing really disastrous happened.

Bullets on the final three plays of the game, in reverse chronological order:

  • Prepare to see this photo displayed widely across the sprawling Michigan blogosphere.  (Video is here.)  For the second straight game, MSU arguably benefited from the unwritten rule that, short of a guy getting tackled, college basketball officials don't call fouls in the final five seconds of games.  But, before we stipulate to the play being a clear-cut defensive foul on technical grounds (as I did in the postgame thread), be sure to note that Sims' arm is fully extended against Summers' body.  A push-off and a jersey tug (which looked pretty simultaneous to me) in that situation seem like the equivalent of offsetting penalties (no replaying the down, though).  I certainly won't dispute it was a tough way to lose if you're a Wolverine fan, though.  Great play call by Beilein, by the way: Running the other three Michigan players away from the hoop and getting Sims a makeable look near the rim.  Almost made the decision to give the foul at midcourt very regrettable.
  • I thought the 1-3-1 call on MSU's final possession was a good one by Beilein, too, given that MSU hadn't really solved it at that point in the game.  Could have easily created a turnover, and MSU was fortunate that Lucas was able spring free and then duck in for the go-ahead jumper.  For a moment there I had a nightmarish vision of MSU losing the game without even getting a shot off.
  • As lethal as DeShawn Sims was from 3-point range down the stretch, he sure choked on that final attempt from beyond the arc, didn't he?  Oddly, it seemed like Draymond Green actually baited him into it, sagging all the way down into the lane to help on dribble penetration and leaving Sims wide open.  I'd be very interested to know whether the coaches told him to do that or not.  Doesn't seem like the standard approach against a guy who'd made 3 of his 4 three-point attempts to that point.

Bottom line: Michigan State is now 23-3 in Big Ten play--including 12-1 on the road--since the beginning of the 2009 conference season.  A bit lucky?  Absolutely.  Also pretty darn good.

Next up: A nice 3-day break to catch our breaths.  Then return engagement with Northwestern in East Lansing on Saturday night (7:00, BTN).