|Photo credit: msuspartans.com
In the final tune-up for North Carolina and Duke MSU cruised to an 80-58 win over the Hillsdale Chargers in an exhibition game at the Breslin Center. After jumping out to a 25-9 lead the Spartans weathered a 12-2 run by Hillsdale before pushing the lead back to 16 at halftime. Hillsdale never got closer than 12 after that and MSU pushed the lead as high as 26 in the second half.
It was a game with more positives than negatives, but it's still not clear how ready this Spartans team is to take on North Carolina in just under a week. The last of the home-brewed non-interactive four factors graphs (statsheet.com will be providing them from here on out) is shown below. As they did against Ferris State, MSU swept all four factors in notching this win.
In a fairly up-tempo 74-possession game the Spartans managed 1.08 points-per-possession while holding Hillsdale to 0.78. Despite another rocky shooting night (4-20) from three-point range MSU managed a respectable 51.6 eFG%, shooting 61% on their twos (27-44). They also posted a very encouraging 13.5% turnover rate (they averaged 20.2% last year). And although the performance on the glass was not as dominant as might be expected, they did win that battle at both ends and got to the line a lot more than Hillsdale, making more free-throws than the Chargers attempted.
In the spirit of hockey season, which has also just started, your three stars and other player notes after the jump.
Draymond Green – Green led the team with 15 points, shooting 3-6 from two, 2-5 from three and 3-5 at the line. He also led with 28 minutes and added 9 rebounds (all defensive), 2 assists and 3 steals. It wasn't a spectacular night but he stayed within the flow of the game and had a solid performance.
Derrick Nix – After volunteering to give up his starting spot to Adreian Payne Nix played 17 minutes and once again impressed with his improved fitness and skills. He scored 10 points on 7 shots, including 2-2 from the foul line. That makes him 5-for-5 from the line in two exhibition games. Small sample, I know, but his stroke looks much better than last year. Considering how many fouls he draws (113 FTR last year) that will be a major addition to his game if he can keep it up. He also ran the floor well, even picking up a fast-break layup on a pass from Travis Trice, and continued to show nice touch in the paint.
Travis Trice – After hoisting up an ill-advised three-point shot soon after entering the game (Steve Grinczel quoted Trice as saying "I looked over (to the bench) and I already knew what was coming. (Izzo) even said, that's a Harry High School shot") Trice settled down and had an impressive game on a night when Keith Appling was decidedly out-of-sorts. Trice notched 10 points on 7 shots to go along with 6 assists and no turnovers and Twitter was abuzz with speculation about Trice becoming a starter before long. Needless to say I'm feeling pretty good about my pick of Trice as the sleeper for the Spartans this year (in my Q & A with Dylan at UMHoops.com in case you missed it).
Also worthy of note – Adreian Payne started and played 22 largely impressive minutes, hitting 5 of his six shots, including a strong move in the post, and had 4 thunderous blocks. Branden Dawson had a 10-point game as well, though he didn't look quite as impressive as he did against Ferris State. He had 5 boards (3 offensive) and a block. Brandon Wood was more assertive in this game and, although he missed all of his three-point attempts he showed a nice drive to the hoop, went 3-3 from the line and had two assists. Russell Byrd showed a very sweet stroke, hitting 2 of his 3 three-pointers. Finally, Austin Thornton, though he didn't score, did pick up 4 rebounds without turning the ball over in 16 minutes of action.
As the Spartans head into the North Carolina game, it's clear that Izzo hasn't completely determined the rotation yet - 10 players had double-digit minutes in last night's game. The core is clearly going to be Green, Dawson, Appling, Payne, Nix and Wood with Thornton, Trice, Byrd and Alex Gauna getting some yet-to-be-determined slice of the remaining minutes. Here's Izzo from Grinczel's blog:
"I'm still experimenting a little bit and trying to get some guys some minutes," Izzo said. "We don't have a lot in. You didn't see us run a lot - I'm trying to camouflage it. We're putting in some more things this week that I will think will help us a little bit more."Areas of improvement are definitely outside shooting and transition defense. Izzo is clearly worried about staying with Carolina's athletic lineup, but as Derrick Nix put it: "I don't care about no athleticism." See you in San Diego.