First things first:
Here's the four factors graph from tonight's MSU-Northwestern game. pic.twitter.com/KjKqiuivFQ— Tim Conner (@connertp) February 11, 2015
It was a slow game, largely due to MSU kneeing out the clock at the end, which made the final score a little closer than the run of play would suggest. Northwestern was really sloppy with the ball and that helped significantly; the ability to get out in transition in the first half made opening up the lead possible. Let's get right onto the bullets (spoiler alert, I'm not going to talk about free throw shooting):
- 19 Assists on 23 Field Goals is absolutely absurd. This team has done a nice job all year of whipping the ball around the court, and is 11th in the country in terms of field goals that have been assisted. That also speaks to the lack of an elite shot creator, but you have to admire the fact that this team has recognized it.
- Tum Tum Nairn getting the start seemed like an oddity to me. Travis Trice came in quickly after an early Nairn turnover and had a nice game. The time split was closer than most games but that had more to do with the score than anything. The shook-up starting lineup was fine against Northwestern, but I can't imagine it'd be very effective against Ohio State this weekend. [Editor's note: this concludes the reverse-jinxing for this article.]
- Branden Dawson was back to himself, and that made a major difference. His four first half blocks set the tone defensively in many ways, and I believe he would've had a better rebounding game had the score been closer. In any case, this is the Dawson needed on Saturday.
- Marvin Clark's Bandwagon is filling up, and I'd like to volunteer as driver. Why can't he play some minutes at the 3 in addition to backing up Dawson? Clark had 8 points on 2 for 3 shooting (and 2 for 2 from the line!) as well as 2 boards and zero turnovers. He spreads the floor, guards reasonably well, and provides some size against the larger wings that some teams have. Especially considering that...
- Alvin Ellis was, well, Alvin Ellis. He competes defensively, which is good to see. But he's a near non-entity offensively, and on a second unity featuring Tum Tum that's not something you can afford. Prior to this game, he's posting a 71.2 Offensive Rating while using just 15.5% of possessions in limited minutes.
- Bryn Forbes didn't have his best shooting day (3 for 8 from three, not bad either), but it's good to see him get 9 shots in a game. More Forbes involvement can only be good, in my opinion.
- Mavin Costelling was a near non-factor for a second game in a row, but that's totally fine when this team is shooting this well. Combined line: 4 points (2 for 6 shooting), 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists, 7 fouls(!). Alex Olah had just 7 points and 3 rebounds, so that was largely a draw. I'll take it.