The Michigan State Spartans basketball team fell to the Louisville Cardinals in overtime on Tuesday night. It was another slow and sloppy start for MSU, and turnovers were an issue — especially early in the game. But there is one player in particular who I have noticed is getting off to slow starts in the first half before coming alive in the second half — shooting guard, Joshua Langford.
If Langford showed up in the first half, I truly believe the Spartans would have won that game, and by a decent amount. I could make the same argument for the first game of the year against the Kansas Jayhawks, but nothing is certain.
Now, it’s important to remember that Langford is really having a good season overall. Comparing the beginning of this year to last season, his scoring is up 6.3 points per game, rebounds are up one per game, while minutes and assists are slightly up as well. His field goal percentages are up across the board — two point, three point and overall. His free throw percentage is down (.849 last season versus .762 this season) but he has plenty of time to improve upon that.
As you can see, Langford has really stepped up his game, particularly offensively, this season. His per 40 minutes numbers look great: 25.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists He is taking his status as a captain seriously and leading his team.
But back to the point of this article, why has Langford played much better in one half and been quiet in the other? For the majority of games, he suddenly comes alive in the second half after doing very little in the first half. If the Spartans are to be successful this season, Langford needs to play a complete game.
Let’s take a look at Langford’s shooting numbers by half. And, once again I went down a rabbit hole and decided to manually add up statistics from each half because I couldn’t find an easier way to do it (I need a new hobby)— so please (kindly) let me know if you notice any errors here.
11/6 vs. Kansas:
First half: 1-4 FG (1-1 three-point FGs), 2-2 FTs, 5 points
Second half: 4-7 FG (3-5 three-point FGs), 2-2 FTs, 13 points
11/11 vs. Florida Gulf Coast:
First half: 5-10 FG (1-5 three-point FGs), 3-3 FTs, 14 points
Second half: 2-5 FG (0-1 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 4 points
11/14 vs. Louisiana Monroe:
First half: 3-8 FG (2-5 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 8 points
Second half: 4-7 FG (0-3 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 8 points
11/18 vs. Tennessee Tech:
First half: 1-6 FG (1-4 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 3 points
Second half: 5-5 FG (3-3 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 13 points
11/22 vs. UCLA:
First half: 4-6 FG (3-5 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 11 points
Second half: 1-4 FG (0-2 three-point FGs), 1-3 FTs, 3 points
11/23 vs. Texas:
First half: 3-5 FG (1-1 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 7 points
Second half: 7-11 FG (4-5 three-point FGs), 4-4 FTs, 22 points
11/27 vs. Louisville:
First half: 0-3 FG (0-2 three-point FGs), 2-3 FTs, 2 points
Second half: 4-8 FG (1-2 three-point FGs), 0-0 FTs, 9 points
Overtime: 1-3 FG (0-1 three-point FGs), 2-4 FTs 4 points
First Half: 7.1 points, 40.4 FG percentage, 39.1 three-point FG percentage, 87.5 FT percentage
Second Half: 10.3 points, 57.4 FG percentage, 52.4 three-point FG percentage, 78 FT percentage
So, looking as this view, it appears that the only consistent game he had on a per half basis was against Louisiana Monroe where he scored eight points in each half (still a little bit underwhelming given the opponent). Other than that there are big scoring discrepancies. The only games he scored more points in the first half compared to the second half was in the UCLA and Florida Gulf Coast matchups. Of course, it’s been exciting to watch him come alive in the second half in big games: Kansas, Texas and Louisville — put he has to have the same level of energy and play throughout full contests. If he had done that, we very well may be looking at a 7-0 Spartans squad right now. And, of course, the two losses don’t fall completely on his shoulders, but as co-captain he takes a little bit more responsibility.
The two-guard has definitely ascended his play this year. This team is highly talented and will go as far as Langford, Winston and Ward take them. Langford — and the Spartans as a team — just have to do it with consistency moving forward. That means avoiding turnovers, starting out strong and playing with energy. If that happens, it’s going to be a fun year for MSU.