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Whistling By: Michigan State 72, Indiana 58

Because of the way it was called, this game is a tough one to analyze.  The officials called a total of 43 personal fouls--26 of them on MSU.  That was partially a function of Indiana being aggressive going toward the hoop, partially a function of the MSU players' seeming inability to stop reaching for the ball, and partially a function of the officials calling things very tightly.  There were several calls in both directions on which the offending defender (oxymoron?) appeared to get all ball.

Despite converting just 15 field goals in the game--and going a full 10 minutes to close the first half without hitting a shot from the field--Indiana managed to score over a point per possession (only 55 possessions in this game) by getting to the free throw line 28 times and knocking down almost 90% (25) of those shots.  Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford were the main offensive instigators for IU; Jones scored 20 points on 11-12 FT shooting, Watford put up 14 on 6-8 FT shooting.

The positive spin is that MSU probably wins this game by 20 if (1) the game is officiated in a more typical manner and/or (2) Indiana shoots closer to their season average from the line (67.4%).  The negative spin is that MSU's inability to keep the Hoosiers off the line could be something that comes back to haunt them against a tougher opponent over the next 4-6 weeks.

On that note: I think I've at least partially solved the mystery of how MSU has posted such a low opponents' free throw rate this season (13th in the country coming into this game): The Big Ten doesn't have many/any teams that excel at drawing fouls.  Indiana actually leads the league in offensive free throw rate at 41.8, which only ranks 80th in the country. Purdue is the only other Big Ten team to even rank in the top half of Division 1 teams in offensive FTR.  On the other side of the equation, 6 Big Ten teams rank in the top 50 nationally in opponents' FTR.

Looking back at MSU's game log, 4 nonconference opponents posted FTRs over 40--Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, UMass, North Carolina.  Indiana is only the second Big Ten opponent to reach that threshold; Purdue was the first.  MSU's tendency to pick up fouls against teams that attack the basket off the dribble or have interior scoring threats to take advantage of our lack of height could be a potential weakness that doesn't show up on our tempo-free profile.

Beyond the fouling issue, the inability to control the defensive glass was the only real negative in MSU's performance.  Indiana pulled down 17 of 30 offensive rebounding opportunities, led by Watford with 5.  The Hoosiers out-hustled MSU to grab missed shots on several occasions, but their statistical dominance was also a bit flukish: 5 of the 17 offensive rebounds were of the "team rebound" variety (missed shots knocked out of bounds by the defense).

MSU imposed its superior talent and discipline in the shooting and turnover departments.  They utilized their size to convert over two-thirds of their 2-point attempts (29-43), and grabbed a good portion of the few shots they did miss (11 offensive rebounds in 24 opportunities).

On defense, the Spartans forced Indiana into tough shots whenever the Hoosiers couldn't get to the free throw line.  Indiana recorded just 5 assists in the game, as they were unable to create clean shots off set plays.

For the third straight game, MSU kepts its turnover percentage under 16.0%, while forcing Indiana to give it up on almost 30% of their possessions.  With just a few exceptions, the passing was crisp and decisive whenever Tom Crean switched to zone looks on defense.


In the end, this was a game in which MSU should have been able to methodically build a lead over the game's 40 minutes, and that's what they did:


Player bullets:

  • Draymond Green's scoring touch is back: 14 points on 5-5 shooting, 3 offensive rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal.
  • Kalin Lucas in his 3 games back from the missed game vs. Illinois: 49 points on 32 FGA, 11 assists, 4 turnovers.
  • Delvon Roe was perhaps more involved in the half-court offense in this game than he has ever been as a Spartan.  He only ended up with 6 points to show for it, but passed the ball extremely well: 5 assists vs. zero turnovers. Held Tom Pritchard to 2 points on the other end of the court.
  • Raymar Morgan had a quiet 10 points.  Only picked up 2 fouls in a tightly-called game.  Zero turnovers.
  • Chris Allen: 10 points on 2-5 three-point shooting.  Whatever Allen is doing right now, he should keep doing it until further notice.
  • Durrell Summers: Very poor game defensively.  In a game called like this one was, you have to know you can't reach for the ball.  Summers consistently tried to make plays on the ball he wasn't in position to make.  The result: fouling out with 6 minutes to go.
  • Korie Lucious has forgotten how to shoot: 0-4 tonight, 9-37 over the last 7 games he's played in.  Not good.
  • Derrick Nix could not be stopped in his 10 minutes on the floor: 6 points, 3 rebounds.
  • Garrick Sherman tied Nix and Morgan for the team high with 3 defensive rebounds.
  • Mike Kebler got 8 minutes tonight.  Turns out he's human: 1 missed shot, 1 turnover, 1 foul.

Up Next: The next "Game of the Year . . . So Far."  This may be the last such game in the regular season, though.  Ohio State visits the Breslin Center at high noon on Sunday (CBS).  Depending on what happens tomorrow night in Columbus, a win on Sunday could put MSU in very good position to at least share the Big Ten title.  A loss would mean a hard-to-envision upset win in West Lafayette becomes necessary to reach that goal.  (Look like Jon Diebler is good to go against Purdue, by the way, although it remains to be seen what impact the wrist injury will have on his shooting.)

Update: Rexrode makes a good point about the schedule finally being to our advantage going into the upcoming crucial two-game stretch:

Yes, after another long, late night, MSU will have Wednesday off. Then Thursday is a self-improvement day. Then Friday and Saturday to scheme and prepare for Ohio State. Then a week to prepare for Purdue.