That suuuuuuuuuuuucked. Let’s get this over with.
1. Defense Optional
It was an option that was declined by pretty much every Spartan today. Ohio State got open look after open look, especially from deep, with Michigan State defenders going under screens, being late or just plain missing on rotations.
In fairness, Ohio State is not a good three-point shooting team overall so going under screens isn’t a terrible tactic, but the starters were 9-of-17 from beyond the arc and it was the third-best shooting regular, JaQuan Lyle, getting left open more often than not. He made them pay by going 5-of-7 with some of his makes coming in devastating fashion.
Those are the types of lapses that will cost the Spartans games they should win, like this one.
2. The Usual Suspects
We said coming into today that if Ohio State was going to win, their starters would have to be the ones to carry them. Let’s see how that played out...
Seems about right.
The Spartans were not only unable to slow the “Big Three” of Loving, Tate and Lyle but the other two starters, Thompson and Williams, also chipped in 20 points. Nick Ward finally met a big he couldn’t get into foul trouble (at least until late in the second half) and it hampered the consistency of the offense.
This is the basketball version of seeing knowing a fastball is coming but still not being able to hit it. Ohio State didn’t do anything out of the ordinary and no one unexpected played well, MSU just couldn’t slow the regulars.
3. Crunchtime Guard Disaster
I’m starting to believe that the lack of dynamic wing play is a bigger detriment to this team than the height disparity.
The Spartans have no one — possibly Josh Langford aside — that can get their own shot with any type of consistency. None of the Alvin Ellis-Matt McQuaid-Eron Harris trio are great creators (or defenders, really) and it is killing this team in crunch time. Compounding the matter is that the best point guard on the team, Tum Tum Nairn, can’t shoot and his backup is a true freshman in the midst of a brutal rut.
It all came to a head at the end of today’s game. With about a minute left, MSU was down four with the ball and the five on the floor were Tum Tum - McQuad - Ellis - Bridges - Ward. What ensued was technically basketball but in reality was just Tum Tum dribbling the ball for 30 seconds and MSU forcing up a rushed last second shot. Then it happened again.
I get why he’s playing over Winston now, but has to be Winston’s job by end of season. Just too much wasted motion. https://t.co/cUD1gPtvvP— KJ (@KJfromtheDeck) January 15, 2017
He should have dumped the ball to Bridges or Ward, but didn’t, and with no wings to help him out and no shooting threat of his own, Tum Tum was lost and so was the game.
For this team to reach it’s peak — as to what that is, who knows — Winston has to snap out of the rut and Langford and Harris have to start playing defense well enough to earn crunchtime minutes.
McQuaid is an average 3-point shooter who can’t defend, Ellis is a streaky shooter who can’t create or defend well and Tum Tum, while significantly improved offensively, is not a shooting threat at all. At worst, you can only have one of them on the floor in the big moments. At best, none of them will be.
At the end of the day, who knows how far this team can really go but their best chance to get there is by keeping role players in their roles. That was not the case today.