Syracuse dominated MSU in every aspect of Tuesday night's game, cruising to a 14-point win in what was probably the Spartans worst game since last season's debacle at the Kohl Center against Wisconsin. The Orange dominated the first half in the paint and managed to push the margin even further in the second half after withstanding a 13-3 MSU run that brought it to within 2. Although each of MSU's 3 losses has been to a team ranked in the top 10, they find themselves forced to regroup against a tough Oakland squad this Saturday to get back on track.
The game was played at a 68 possession pace, meaning MSU allowed 1.06 points per possession but scored at a dismal .85 points per possession clip, by far their worst offensive output of the season. The Spartans couldn't seem to get anything going against the aggressive Syracuse 2-3 zone, settling for a lot of one-and-done jump shots. That was the other telling statistic of the game, as Syracuse's dominance of the offensive glass was a key factor in their victory. MSU had no answer for Rick Jackson, who put up a very impressive double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds, 6 of them offensive, continually abusing the Spartans' front court and providing good looks for Scoop Jardine (19 points on just 9 shots) and Kris Joseph (14 points, 8-9 from the line) when he wasn't scoring himself. Although Syracuse shot poorly from outside, hitting only 2 of their 11 3-point attempts, it didn't really matter as 28 of their 55 field goal attempts were dunks or layups and they made more free-throws than the Spartans attempted, going 22-29 from the line.
Syracuse clearly exposed what was supposed to be a strength of the Spartans; their front court. Delvon Roe, Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman struggled to keep Syracuse out of the paint and Adreian Payne was an unmitigated disaster. He sat out the entire second half after numerous defensive lapses, finishing with 1 point and no rebounds in 5 minutes. The other freshman, Keith Appling, was no better, turning the ball over 3 times (generously scored) and getting his only 2 points in garbage time with under a minute left.
Four factors graph and further details after the jump.
Syracuse came out on top of all of the four factors, which should come as no surprise. After an emphatic performance in the paint in the first half the Orange managed only a slim lead in EFG% for the game, as MSU adjusted fairly well in the second half. Unfortunately the dunks and layups they were getting became foul shots, which Syracuse converted more successfully than they had in prior games.
- Durrell Summers: Although he's not "taking over" games as he did in the tournament last season, Summers has been a steady offensive force this year. Tonight he had 18 points (including 4-9 from three) and 6 rebounds to keep the Spartans reasonably close. When he was heating it up early in the second half, however, they couldn't seem to get him open looks consistently, but he did take it to the hoop a couple of times to try and keep things within reach.
- Korie Lucious: With Kalin Lucas struggling and Keith Appling a non-factor, Lucious was the most effective point guard, hitting the occasional shot (10 points on 4-10 shooting) and making some nice passes (5 assists against 2 TO) to no avail.
- Kalin Lucas: Lucas played 34 minutes, tops on the team, despite concerns about his achilles, but only scored 8 points on 3-9 shooting and turned it over a whopping 6 times.
- Shooting: The Spartans only managed 38.9% shooting including 7-24 from beyond the arc. Although they were most effective trying to force the ball inside and then either take it to the rim or kick it out to an open shooter, they did not do enough of this and finished with the aforementioned .85 PPP, a mark that will not win many games. The Syracuse zone, like the Bowling Green zone in the first half of that game, gave them problems they could not solve.
- Interior Defense: Syracuse was consistently able to feed the ball into the post and either score or make an interior pass for an easy bucket or foul. Rick Jackson (8-15 FGA), Scoop Jardine (6-6 on twos) and Brandon Triche (7-8 free-throws) were the primary beneficiaries.
- Turnovers: Although MSU managed to avoid another 20 turnover game, they did give it up 17 times for another ugly 25% turnover rate. This is a BIG problem that Izzo will need to address.
- Offensive Rebounding: After a good performance against Bowling Green, the Spartans regressed to their weak offensive rebounding ways, collecting only 25.7% of their misses, while Syracuse was able to take many bites at the apple, getting 36.4% of their misses. Syracuse flat out owned MSU in the paint in this game.
- Team Chemistry: Although I hesitate to include a non-quantifiable category like this, MSU seemed to lack a clear plan and a means to execute it against Syracuse's zone, which could hardly have come as a surprise, since Boeheim has been playing it for something like 50 years. They had apparently decided against skip passes over the zone, after middling results against Bowling Green, but didn't seem to have considered an alternative. The collection of point guards (MSU had Appling, Lucious and Lucas on the floor for several stretches) didn't seem to know what to expect of each other which led to either bad turnovers or forced jump shots with predictable results.
It's still early in the season, of course, but it's hard to be inspired by MSU's play so far in the non-conference season. Time to regroup against Oakland and try to get this season back where it was expected to be.