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Depleted but Elite: Michigan State 59, Northern Iowa 52

[Warning: Game recaps published after 1:30 a.m. are not guaranteed to be fully coherent.]

At the 10-minute mark in the second half, Michigan State led the game by just one point, 43-42.  From that point to the end of the game, there were 17 possessions for each team.  Northern Iowa scored 10 points in those 17 possessions.  All 10 of the points came from the free-throw line (on 14 attempts).  From the field, the Panthers took, and missed, 10 shots.

Despite only having six players go double-digit minutes in this game, MSU was the stronger, more aggressive team down the stretch.  (Ironically, the two timeouts Ben Jacobson called in the first 10 minutes of the second half may have helped with that.)

Here's what the six players who saw more than 10 minutes (all of whom played more than 20 minutes) did tonight:

  • Durrell Summers took on the role of primary scorer early and kept his hot shooting from the perimeter going.  He forced a few shots at times, partly because other offensive options weren't emerging, but finished with 19 points on just 15 FGA (4-9 from beyond the arc); 7 rebounds and 2 assists to boot.
  • Korie Lucious played about just as well as we could have hoped: 10 points on 2-6 three-point shooting, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals.  Perhaps the most remarkable stat: 6 rebounds (all on defense)  He made a few poor decisions along the way, but you have to expect a few of those from a back-up point guard suddenly thrust into the position of playing 39 minutes in a game.  Did his best Kalin Lucas impression on a twisting pull-up jumper with the shot clock running down to put the team up 4 with 91 seconds left in the game.
  • Draymond Green only made one field goal (on 6 attempts), but managed to get to 8 points by knocking down 6 free throws (4 of them late).  5 rebounds, 4 assists, zero turnovers.  The team's secondary ball-handler.
  • Raymar Morgan struggled with foul trouble again.  He finished with just 7 points, but 4 of them (along with an assist) came in the first 4-minute segment after halftime, as he helped establish a focus and rhythm on offense that led to MSU erasing a 7-point halftime deficit in very short order.  Willed in a big basket late over Lucas O`Rear to give MSU a lead it would not surrender.  Morgan's foul trouble was offset by the foul trouble of Adam Koch, which was partly a function of trying to guard Morgan.  Despite playing only 18 minutes, Koch led UNI with 13 points.
  • After scoring a driving basket in the first half, Delvon Roe looked like he could barely walk.  But he managed to stay on the court for 27 minutes tonight.  6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, a block.  Monster follow-up dunk to cut the lead to 3 early in the second half.  Very good defense late in the game to deny Jordan Eglseder good position, keeping Eglseder under double digits (9 points on 4-9 FG shooting).
  • Chris Allen was nowhere near 100%; he clearly couldn't plant on his bad foot.  But he stayed out there for 22 minutes, scored 5 points, and played decent enough perimeter defense.  He helped hold Ali Farokhmanesh to a 2-9 FG shooting performance.

Because of the slow pace of the game and the number of minutes Roe and Allen were able to play, there wasn't as much need for the role players to make contributions.  Derrick Nix struggled early on both ends of the court against Eglseder.  Garrick Sherman scored a couple nice baskets cutting down the lane.  Austin Thornton grabbed two defensive rebounds.  Mike Kebler came in briefly once in each half to give Lucious short breathers.

Kwadzo Ahelgbe was Northern Iowa's most consistent scorer, putting up 12 points on 8 FGA, but he also turned the ball over 5 times.  In the end, MSU found a way to take away both UNI's low-post game and their scoring from the perimeter .  The Panthers finished the game shooting just 46.4% on 2-pointers and 25.0% on 3-pointers--very good numbers for the defense when there's almost no chance of a second crack at the basket.  They stayed in the game by taking advantage of fairly tight officiating and getting to the free throw line 21 times.


The inability of MSU to consistently grab offensive rebounds was a little disappointing, but the Panther big men were excellent position rebounders.  In the end, a 480/.368/.737 shooting line was enough to get MSU just over the point-per-possession mark and advance the team to the 7th Elite Eight in the last 12 Michigan State basketball seasons.

Up Next: An improbably opportunity to advance to make that 6 Final Fours in 12 years.   If that's to happen, it will require quickly transitioning back to a more up-tempo mode.  The Tennessee Volunteers knocked off Ohio State tonight, setting up a 5/6 match-up in the regional final of what was purported to be the toughest region in the bracket.  I worry about how Delvon Roe's knee and Chris Allen's foot will respond to a 38-hour turnaround (2:20 ET on Sunday).  Tom Izzo is going to have to reach down deep into his bag of tricks.  More on that tomorrow.

The depth ratio predictor is broke this year.  This is a new brand of eliteness.  It's good to be a Spartan.