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Game of Strange - MSU 92, Tuskegee 56

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"People are strange, when you're a stranger..."
"People are strange, when you're a stranger..."

Let's look at it this way: The historical importance of the Game of Change was highlighted with great brilliance thanks to its extreme contrast with the quality of the game played to commemorate it. In an absolute stink bomb of a game, Michigan State overcame an embarrassing first half to blow out Division II Tuskegee by 36. And it wasn't as if Tuskegee collapsed in the second half. Their shooting line was almost identical in both frames. MSU was just able to paper over their own bad shooting by making almost twice as many free throws as Tuskegee attempted while completely eliminating second chances for the Golden Tigers, who finished, unofficially, with 8 offensive boards in 68 opportunities (11.8%).

It's hard to describe a blowout like this as a poor game for the winning side, but I think almost anyone who saw it would agree that it was a bad showing for the Spartans. The first half in particular, in which Tuskegee was within 2 with under 5 minutes left and MSU committed 12 turnovers, was especially vexing. I would even submit, that considered on its own, the first half of this game was as bad as any game the 2010-11 MSU team produced, including the blowout in Iowa and the humiliation at home by Purdue.

The first 7 minutes of the second half were the difference, as MSU committed only 2 turnovers while dominating play and pushing the lead to 18. From there it had the feel of an AAU game with both teams pushing the ball and taking bad shots until the merciful conclusion.

I don't have a four-factors graph for you, but this was easily MSU's fastest-paced game of the season at a fairly ridiculous 85 possessions. The Spartans had not played a game over 68 to this point. This meant that the 22 turnovers MSU committed was STILL a 26% rate. Tuskegee committed "only" 17. The remaining three factors were strongly in MSU's favor: eFG%: 52%/37.5%; OReb%: 34%/11.8%; FTR: 47.8%/21%.

There were some bright spots. Keith Appling came to play and finished with a career high 25 points on only 9 shots while only committing 2 turnovers, the low figure among the starters. Adreian Payne had a nice game with a 12-point 10-rebound double-double. And he hit all 4 of his free-throws to go to 91%(!) for the year. Derrick Nix also posted a double-double (11 pts and 13 reb) after a sketchy first half. Branden Dawson, though, continued his turnover problems, committing 6 in his 23 minutes.

Unfortunately not much more clarity emerged in the rotation question. Little-used Matt Costello packed 6 points, 7 rebounds and a steal into his 7 minutes, making a strong bid for more time. Brandan Kearney, Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd, meanwhile, didn't do a whole lot with their combined 26 minutes, netting 11 points and 6 boards, 7 of those points coming from Byrd in garbage time.

Still a lot of work to be done in an ever-shrinking window of time. Only two more games remain before traveling to Minnesota to face a red-hot Gopher team on the 31st.