Happy Sunday everyone. Let me start by saying I apologize that this article only is coming out now. I had to run out to a concert last night as soon as the game ended and cranking out this article is the first thing I am doing today. But while I am on the topic of apologies, let me go ahead and say something that will probably get me fired from TOC. I am sorry that this blog has deteriorated as much as it has since the last staff was in place. Now you are left reading my often off-based takes, plus any complaints you may have about my cowriters, and you are not getting the quantity or quality of content you deserve. Just know I wish we were doing a better job.
Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let’s get to last night’s game. And I am going to start this off with a poll.
Was Saturday night’s MSU vs. MD game the ugliest game of basketball you have ever seen?
This poll is closed
For me, it’s a yes. Perhaps it is just recency bias, but this was a miserable viewing experience. I can’t imagine someone who was not a fan of either team being able to watch the full forty minutes. It was a couple of teams that could not make shots (one who could not even make FTs), were coughing the ball up endlessly, and could not consistently set up plays on the offensive end. Incredulously, the team who ended up losing played the overwhelming majority of this game without their second-leading scorer on the season due to foul trouble, and yet the winning team still struggled to get any separation. More astonishing, maybe even embarrassing, Maryland had only three players notch points until there was six minutes remaining; those three players were nearly matching the output of the entire MSU squad, who got contributions from all nine players who saw the floor.
In the end, MSU won, 63-54, to earn the regular season sweep of the Terrapins. And now I need to come up with three things I enjoyed about this game and narrow it down to three things that made me shake my head in disgust.
3 Things I Liked:
- Tre Holloman defending the fast break. This one was actually amazing. For the second game in a row, backup guard Tre Holloman found himself staring at a bullrush of opposing players with just himself standing back to prevent the easy basket. And for the second game in a row, he did it triumphantly. Last time, he broke up a 4-on-1 by jumping into the passing lane and stealing the ball. This time, it was a 2-on-1, and the ball handler decided he would just take it himself. Big mistake. Tre timed his jump perfectly and met Jahmir Young in the air about a foot from the rim, preventing the ball from even leaving Young’s hands. The two came down together for a held-ball call, and with the possession arrow pointing the Spartans’ way, it was effectively a Maryland turnover. MSU had five blocks in this game, but this one was easily the most impressive.
- Rebounding! I just need to point out that for what feels like the first time in months, MSU actually outrebounded their opponent. The Spartans controlled the glass to the tune of 36-30 over the Terrapins. Both teams collected a dozen offensive rebounds. It is likely that a lot of this had to do with Maryland’s Julian Reese, who averages just under ten rebounds a game, hardly playing.
- Defense. On a day when offense called in sick, let’s give a shout-out to the play on the other end. Maryland is by no means an offensive powerhouse; they are 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in PPG. But MSU held them fifteen points below even that low average. They get 69.5 per game, and MSU held them to 54, one of their lowest outputs of the season (they’ve had games of 40, 53, and 53 in other losses). Early on, the hands were active and MSU was getting steals, finishing the game with seven. There were the aforementioned five blocks. And there was, generally speaking, good on-ball defense which led to a number of challenging shots, which is indicated in Maryland’s 31% on FGs.
3 Things I Disliked:
- Butterfingers. It felt like the biggest Achilles’ heel of this year’s team was on full display early and often in this one. Mady Sissoko and Carson Cooper each had a few balls slip through their fingers in the first half of this one, either passes on the offensive end or while trying to pull down a rebound. Cooper missed a couple early opportunities because he could not get a good handle on the ball. Some games this issue is better than other games. Saturday night was one of the more problematic games in regard to the centers’ ball security.
- The deep ball. I think we are seeing a trend recently that worries me. MSU is simply not shooting enough three-pointers. Last night, Maryland outshot Michigan State from beyond the arc by a count of 30-14. In four of their last five games, the Spartans have taken 16 or fewer attempts from three. Other teams are keeping themselves in games by relying on the three. For a team with a number of players who shoot the three at a respectable rate, it seems odd that they are not going to it more often. Walker, Holloman, and Akins need to be taking a few of these in the first half of each game to get their shot going. They can’t stop shooting when they miss one or two (hopefully Akins got the bricks out of his system last night). We are not dominating teams on the interior so abandoning the long ball should not be a regular occurrence. But also, they need to make more than 29% of the ones they do launch.
- Can’t stop the hot hand. I will admit I still have flashbacks to last year’s ouster against Kansas State when Markquis Nowell single-handedly knocked off the Spartans. Last night, I was getting shades of that performance watching Jahmir Young. Young scored 31 points of his team’s 54 to lead all scorers. In a game where, as I mentioned above, only three players managed to score through the first 34 minutes, it was miserable seeing his effort keeping the Terrapins within reach, and even taking a lead at one point for thirteen seconds. This has long been a thing with MSU, letting an opposing player have one of their best ever games. For as good of a defensive team as we are, it would be nice if we could figure out a way to suppress the opponent’s star on occasion.
A win is a win, though. Next up is a trip to Minnesota on Tuesday night.
VICTORY FOR MSU!!