MSU came out a little flat and at one point was down 15-10. That rough start had a lot to do with struggles on the defensive boards:
Northeastern's OR% is 78% right now.— Tim Conner (@connertp) December 19, 2015
And in fact, despite an "even" rebounding margin, MSU did get badly outrebounded in this game. But that was almost entirely due to the early rough patch. MSU clawed to a 9-point halftime lead behind some pretty good defense, despite Tom Izzo suggesting that they had been "awful."
In the second half, MSU managed to get many easy baskets by attacking the press. Northeastern's depth was tested, and they simply couldn't keep up on either side of the ball. The disparity in effective field goal percentage tells the story of the game: MSU got easy shots and Northeastern couldn't.
Gavin Schilling saw time for the first time this season and it was clear that he's going to have a little bit of an adjustment period. He finished with four fouls and three rebounds.
Tum Tum Nairn had one of the best games I've seen from him. His outside shooting doesn't seem to have improved much, but he's dramatically improved his ability to finish around the rim. His speed in transition is really fun to watch. Nairn finished with 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
Deyonta Davis didn't get as much run as usual, for various reasons. First, he didn't have a whole lot of energy out of the gate, and was one of the main culprits for the early rebounding disparity.
Kenny Goins continued the #GYLFKG movement, with 6 points (3-for-3 shooting), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. He actually displayed a versatile offensive game! I have no idea of what to make of Goins' quality time; with Matt Costello, Schilling, Davis, Javon Bess and Marvin Clark all in the frontcourt, how much does Goins end up playing?
Denzel Valentine continues to spoil us with a 17-5-6 night. He did have half of MSU's turnovers, but there's not much to take from that. Early on, Northeastern was playing with intensity and Valentine made a few errors. Move along, sir. Nothing to see here.
Matt Costello had a quiet stat line but I thought he was important in keeping MSU in the game early on. When the offense is struggling, throwing the ball into the post is not a bad strategy.
Eron Harris didn't shoot the ball well (just 3-for-8) but he did grab 3 rebounds and 4 assists and only turned the ball over one time on a traveling violation. I still believe he's working to understand his role in the flow of the offense, given how much ball sharing goes on in this offense versus previous teams he's played on.
The Spartans move to 12-0, tying the 2000-01 team for the best start in school history. They'll be #1 in the country for at least one more week. And beating Northeastern, on the road, by 20 is no small feat; KenPom projected just a 7-point margin in this game. They've got a good chance to set the record for the best start by an MSU team in the final non-conference game of the season against Oakland at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday.
What a time to be alive.