Blame for this loss on the transfer of Chris Allen would be greatly misplaced. Michigan State didn't need another perimeter defender and efficient shooter. Attributing this loss to the departure of Raymar Morgan would be apt, for all the attributes he brought to the court MSU needed in spades today. Rebounding, scoring inside, and interior defense were MSU's downfalls this afternoon, as they limited Talor Battle but no one else on Penn State's team in a 66-62 loss.
Let's break down this tragedy by the four factors (note - I'm taking all my numbers for this game from SCACCHoops, I'm sure Statsheet will have slightly different values later):
- eFG%: Despite what you may have seen, MSU actually won this category, 47.3% to 44.7%. That value for the Spartans is a few ticks below their season average, while the defense held Penn State to around its season average. The biggest problem came in the first ten minutes with the several unopposed drives Penn State had to the basket. It was the Syracuse game all over again.
- TO%: Penn State had the advantage here, but that doesn't mean MSU was negligent. The Nittany Lions posted their second lowest TO% of the season at 10.5%, with MSU registering an 18.0% - not great, but surely not an abysmal performance. The really dumb turnovers still exist however, such as another over-and-back call and a couple of inaccurate lob passes.
- OffReb%: This was the killer. Penn State collected 39.5% of their misses, their third highest total of the season behind performances against Lehigh and Furman. Michigan State was slightly below average at 34.5%, but that's beside the point - it is unacceptable to have another team receive second chances at that rate, and that's what ultimately cost MSU. While more bounces than normal went Penn State's way Je,ff Brooks often went up and over Spartan defenders to get the ball. This has to change.
- FT Rate: This was about even as well, with Penn State's 40.4% slightly greater than MSU's 36.4%. Getting to the line wasn't MSU's problem, as you're probably aware. Everyone who went to the line for MSU missed a foul shot today except - get ready for this - Derrick Nix. 10-20 from the line including key misses down the stretch clinched the loss.
As for players, let's address Draymond first - he shot the ball terribly today, but that was his only major misgiving. He had 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. Lucas and Summers were the two main scorers for MSU today (14 and 21 points respectively on decent shooting) and that should highlight part of the problem - this team needs more inside scoring. Nix, Sherman and Roe combined to hit 50% of their shots, but the lack of concerted effort to score points in the paint is a bit disconcerting.
In short, if you haven't calibrated your expectations for this MSU team, you better do so now. This loss wasn't like the fluke losses two years ago where the Spartans lost to hot-shooting Penn State and Northwestern squads, this loss can be blamed on a failure to collect rebounds and poor foul shooting. This team has little more than 72 hours to face an uber-efficient Wisconsin team that will tell if Michigan State has any hope of contending in the Big Ten this year. Let's hope they can pull it together.
One last note - I'm hearing a lot of talk about how this team has no heart, which is a bit misinformed. I'd say today came out flatly with a lack of defensive execution and a bit of an eagerness to settle for jump shots. This team needs to be more prescient on defense and be more assertive on offense, but to say they have no heart creates an excuse that's all too easy to hurl. "PLAY HARDER!" feels good to yell, but the way MSU's playing, won't change anything. They have the desire, now they need to play smarter.