The Tarheels dismantle the Spartans 98-63 in an 83-possession game. Official box score.
In terms of analyzing the full 40 minutes of the game, the Statsheet “Stat of the Day” sums things up neatly: “Michigan State did not beat North Carolina at any of the 4 factors.”
So let’s talk about the two halves of the game individually–and in reverse order. First, the second half: obviously, a complete debacle by any standard. MSU was outscored 45-24 and shot only 7-35 from the field. In Izzoesque fashion, the coach took the blame:
“Four games in seven days — the blame goes to me, not my players,” Izzo continued, referring mainly to last week’s Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where the Spartans played three games. “We were dead. We had no legs.”
To some extent Izzo is just doing what good coaches do: deflecting the blame to himself when his team has hit an emotional low. But I think there’s also truth to the fact that they didn’t have any legs left after coming out with a high level of intensity in the first half, only to fall behind by double digits.
Additionally, the environment at Ford Field didn’t help. The sparse crowd (relative to the size of the arena) never gave the team any kind of emotional lift. At one point in the second half, the crowd gave a Bronx cheer after a made field goal–something I’ve never witnessed in my years of attending MSU basketball games.
So we’ll give the team a gigantic pass on the final twenty minutes of the game.
Now to the first twenty minutes: Let me say, I’ve never been as proud to see my team fall behind by 14 points at halftime as I was last night. I thought MSU came out playing aggressively and confidently. They looked to attack the basket and made several very good passes to create easy baskets.
I’m thrilled that Raymar Morgan proved me wrong by scoring consistently against players of equal/greater talent. He scored 13 points in the first half on 6-9 shooting. His moves were more decisive than usual, as he kept the UNC defenders off balance.
And Chris Allen did exactly what he needed to, coming out of the gates looking for his shot. He also scored 13 points in the first half, knocking down all three of this 3-point attempts. (Is it just me, or is Allen a better shooter when he’s shooting over someone a little off balance than he is when he’s squared up on a open look?)
Delvon Roe once again was very impressive at less than 100%. He didn’t score in the game, but his first-half stat line was nevertheless indicative of all-around production: 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. He definitely showed he could have been a major factor at UNC, had he not chosen to become a Spartan instead.
MSU trailed 53-39 at halftime; there were 40 possessions in the first half. So the offense was fairly solid, particularly in light of the 11 turnovers the team gave up (first half TO%=27.5%). They didn’t back down from playing an up-tempo game. That led to some turnovers that UNC converted into easy baskets, but I still thought it was the way to go. If you’re going to go down, you might as well go down playing your own game.
The bigger problem was at the other end of the court. Every time, MSU would make a couple nice offensive plays, North Carolina would take the ball down the court and hit a perimeter shot with seeming effortlessness. I commented to my friend David, who went to the game with me, that watching UNC is like watching an NBA team–but an NBA team that hustles. Everyone can hit the 15-foot jumper. Wayne Ellington scored 13 points on 6-10 shooting, and Ty Lawson and Danny Green combined to make 4 of 7 three-point attempts in the first half.
Meanwhile, MSU’s turnovers led to a field day for Ty Lawson in transition: 7 steals, 8 assists, and no turnovers for the full game.
And, of course, Tyler Hansborough was Tyler Hansborough: 25 points on 13 FG attempts and 11 rebounds on the night. For the most part, I thought MSU defenders guarded him about as well as they could have hoped to, but guarding a big man of his ability is too tall a task when you can’t focus your defense on him due to the quality of his supporting cast (if, in fact, the word “supporting” applies to anyone on UNC’s roster).
Meanwhile, the guy I pegged as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year struggled mightily. Kalin Lucas finished the night with just 6 points on 2-10 FG shooting (although he did put up a decent 5-1 assist-turnover ratio). I actually thought he looked pretty good in the first half, beating Lawson off the dribble several times. But once he got into the lane, he couldn’t shoot over the UNC big men and he had to kick the ball back out. Eventually, he got frustrated and started taking questionable shots. Korie Lucious did some of that in the second half, as well.
Coming full circle: If there was one thing that bothered me about the second-half performance, it was that the team stopped playing within the offense.
That’s all I’ve got on this one. The game was obviously a major disappointment, both in terms of on-court performance and the crowd environment. We can only hope the team has now hit rock bottom; there’s no place to go but up.
The journey up the mountain begins Sunday at 4 p.m. against Bradley. It’s a home game that will be televised on BTN.
P.S. To add injury to insult, Goran Suton is undergoing arthroscopic sugery on his knee today. Joe Rexrode reports the surgery is of a “diagnostic” nature; they want to figure out why the knee isn’t responding to treatment. Officially, they’re saying he’s out 2-4 weeks. That makes it a stretch that he’ll be back for the Texas game, which is 16 days from now. We can only hope he’ll be ready for Big Ten play, which starts exactly four weeks from last night.