One game down, and I’m assuming there’s a lot more to go.
MSU took a five-point loss to Kansas that did and didn’t look that close in a game full of mood swings, but let’s try to sort them out right here.
Let’s go through the positives first because (I have to even remind myself of this) this is still just November basketball. Hell, does basketball even count with football going on? Anyway…
Kenny Goins was fantastic and, while I’m not sure he’ll be throwing up double-doubles every night, he looks like he can and will be more than just a body out there this year.
His 3-point stroke looks solid, and him and Kyle Ahrens (2-3 from long range last night) will get a good chunk of open looks this year with teams collapsing on Nick Ward and giving Cassius Winston some extra attention. Considering Goins took 15 3-point attempts all last season, seeing him put up eight 3-pointers was the biggest pleasant surprise of the night, and I doubt he’s done taking those shots for the rest of the season.
The second half surge obviously saved what was a rough night. MSU was able to claw its way back into the game by way of solid outside shooting and, more importantly, forcing Kansas into taking uncomfortable shots.
Now, yes, there were times when Kansas found itself taking uncontested threes due to turnovers (more on that later) or Kansas running its “give the ball to the eight foot tall guy” play. Only so much you can do there.
Aaron Henry will be a dawg for this team. Not only is he athletic and the most college-ready freshman on this team, but man did he look like he was playing in his 30th game last night. His aggression was impressive, even if it meant to him getting swatted trying to dunk over every Jayhawk on the court. I would rather a guy try to make plays in his first college outing then play too timid.
If you’ve watched MSU before this season, you know early season turnovers flow like the water over Niagara. That was the case especially with MSU’s two key players in Winston and Ward, who each had five.
Winston’s turnovers just looked sloppy and probably something that will be cleaned up as chemistry builds throughout the season. Ward was a different situation, as he struggled in the double team and coughed up the ball five times and had a few more erratic shots too.
So let’s talk about Ward, who will be a fine and dandy player this season. Tuesday was just a wakeup call for who he is and what he shouldn’t try to be.
I tweeted this last night, but Ward looked something like this:
It’s like when a pro athlete signs a big free agency deal. He comes into town knowing that he’s the man, knowing there’s expectations on him and knowing that he has to deliver. Often times, those big stars enter the season seemingly not knowing what got them there in the first place – just playing their game. They’ll go out and try to do too much, try to be Superman while, really, all they need to do is play their basic game that made them great in the first place.
That really feels like Ward. It looked like he felt like he had to score six points every possession. Like he absolutely needed to score in any way possible, leading to him playing a bit too aggressive and out of control.
Once Ward realizes he doesn’t have to be a world-beater and just needs to play his game, he’ll be fine. Oh, and not going up against a behemoth will help too.
Let’s go back to the turnovers and the second half really quick. The most irritating part of last night’s game was the timing of the turnovers (as if there’s ever a good time for those, but play along with me).
It felt like every time MSU had a chance to build momentum and really turn the game, MSU saw that chance leave before they even shot the ball.
With 17 minutes left and Kansas up just 11, the Jayhawks miss a 3-pointer. MSU comes down the court, Winston turns the ball over and Kansas nails an open 3-ball to push the lead to 14 and end a small MSU run.
A few minutes later, Kansas is now up just eight after Quentin Grimes misses a three (that actually happened, crazy)…but Ward throws up a layup he wouldn’t make in 100 tries. That turns into a, you guessed it, open three for Kansas.
And – this was the one that made me cry “WHYYYY” to no one except a disinterested wife – Winston looked like he really turned the tide for MSU with a 4-point play. Now MSU is once again down by 11…until back-to-back turnovers on the following two possessions allow Kansas to push the lead back to 13.
Eventually it got close again, but unfortunately it was a tad too late.
Alright, I think that’s enough rambling from me. MSU’s next foe is Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday at 6 p.m. Go Green.