Michigan State falls to the Buckeyes, 63-54. Unofficial box score here.
Even more so than the Iowa and Penn State losses, this stands out as the most disappointing loss of the season. MSU appeared to be building momentum going into postseason play. They came out and played very well for nearly 30 minutes tonight. I wasn’t able to see the first half, but they built an 8-point lead on the strength of 3-point shooting and good defense.
It was back and forth in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but MSU played well enough to hold their lead. They found ways to beat the Ohio State zone for easy baskets near the hoop and scored a number of second-chance points. Raymar Morgan was back to playing to his ability, finishing the game with 19 points on 9-13 shooting.
Then Ohio State put the press on–and kept it on. MSU led 45-35 with 11 minutes to play. From that point on, they were outscored 28-9. Seven of those 9 points were scored by Morgan.
Having not seen the first half, I don’t know how much Ohio State pressed early and how well MSU responded. The announcers seemed to indicated they’d done a pretty good job against it. In the final 11 minutes, though, MSU couldn’t have done a worse job. Not only did they turn it over multiple times, they made no attempt to attack it for easy baskets. When they did get the ball downcourt, they’d dribble and pass with no purpose for another 15 seconds before trying to get off a last-second shot.
If you’re going to get pressed, you can’t afford to be passive. The defense is going to pick up some turnovers. So you have to attack the press for some easy baskets. Otherwise, there’s no downside to pressing. Other than fatigue, I don’t know why Ohio State wouldn’t press for 40 minutes when these two teams play on Thursday in Indianapolis.
Izzo put all three point guards out there to try to shore up the ball-handling. I think this was a mistake. When they’re all out there, none of them takes initiative. Instead, they look for each other and pass the ball back and forth with no purpose. We have the quickest guard in the league in Kalin Lucas; why not let him try to beat the press with the dribble a few times? Plus, with all three points out there, you don’t have the wing players to convert baskets if you do break the press.
In his postgame radio interview, Izzo said he wasn’t sure whether to blame the players, himself, or the refs. There’s enough blame to go all around. The players couldn’t sustain their intensity for the full 40 minutes. The refs certainly didn’t help by suddenly calling fouls on minimal contact midway through the second half. But, in the end, MSU simply needed to convert a couple baskets against the press to prevent Ohio State from seizing the lead and the momentum. There was no evidence Izzo had a play designed for the players to beat the press. So that’s on him.
Notes from the box score:
- 21 turnovers in a roughly 60-possession game (35.0%). And they still could have won. It wasn’t even the turnovers created by the press that hurt the most. It was the shot-clock violations (4 of them, I think) where they couldn’t create a shot even once they got into the half-court offense.
- They wasted a great rebounding performance. They pulled down 33 rebounds to Ohio State’s 20. (Once again, the official box score is delayed after MSU loses, so I can’t calculate the offensive/defensive rebounding percentages. Clearly, this is part of some conspiracy specifically aimed at me.)
- Once again, Jamar Butler came through for the Buckeyes. He scored 20 points on 11 FG attempts and 8 FT attempts. That a PPWS of 1.35. The rest of the Buckeyes put up a combined PPWS of just 1.06.
- Ohio State was efficient in creating and converting 2-point shots: They made 20 of 33 attempts from inside the arc (60.6%).
- The three MSU point guard combined to make just 3 of 16 FG attempts.
From an analytical standpoint, I hate to read too much into 11 minutes of terrible play. But it’s hard not to feel like the way MSU blew this game has reversed whatever momentum the Spartans had going for postseason play. The tone of Izzo’s voice after the game was one of despair.
If there’s a silver lining, I guess it’s that MSU now has four full days to figure out what they did wrong today and correct it. On the other hand, Ohio State has now seen exactly how to beat MSU and will do everything possible to replicate it on Friday and earn an NCAA tournament bid.
I guess losing a game in which we turned the ball over 21 times is a fitting end to this particular regular season. We can only hope the destiny of this team is not permanently shaped at this point. If it is, then there may only be 2 or 3 games left to play, as Izzo noted in his postgame comments.