Outhustled. Outmuscled. Outrebounded. Outshot. Outplayed. Dominated. Michigan State had control of the game from start to finish and the result was never in doubt.
Michigan State imposed themselves on the game. They made sure they they were playing at their pace and in their style. The Spartans backed down Michigan’s undersized four and five players and just willed their way to rebound the few shots that they missed. Most of all, they played absolutely suffocating defense. For the first 30 minutes or so of play, Michigan couldn’t get a clean look at the basket.
DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris were completely neutralized. Michigan’s players seldom looked confident enough to take the few shots when they were almost open, and countless possessions ended up with desperation shots as the shot clock wound down.
Raymar Morgan (22 points on 10/15 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists, 1 block) completely dominated the game. A good five minutes or so into the second half, Morgan still had more points by himself than Michigan had as a team. Morgan is just one of many power forwards that have simply exploited Michigan’s lack of size at the four.
Michigan came out extremely flat but it was also clear that Michigan State brought their ‘A-game’. The result was obviously not pretty… especially from my seat in row 19 of section 216 (yeah, that’s the top). There’s not really anything positive to take from the box score either. Just an assortment of ugly stats:
- Michigan’s shooting line (2pt/3pt/eFG) was 50/19/39.5. Michigan State’s was 45.6/42.9/48.1.
- Michigan State rebounded 46% of their missed shots for 16 second chance points. Michigan rebounded a meager 26.7% of their misses, which is just a tad below their season average.
- The most disheartening statistic was Michigan’s 19 turnovers (30.7%). Michigan is obviously one of the best teams in the country at holding onto the ball, but they have had their black-eyes this year. The home game versus Northwestern (29.6%) and the game at Purdue (23.9%) were their two worst performances before today. Michigan had to win the turnover battle by a significant margin if they were going to have any shot in this game.
- Sticking with the turnovers… Michigan’s starting guards (Morris and Douglass) combined for 9 turnovers. They had 9 turnovers between the two of them in the last five games combined.
- Manny Harris’ frustrating season hit rock bottom. 4 points (1-10 shooting), ZERO rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers. Harris’ season has steadily veered off the tracks since his season opening triple double versus Northern Michigan. His rebounding numbers have also fallen off a cliff, I’m not sure how you can play 33 minute sand not grab a single board.
- DeShawn Sims wasn’t much better. He missed a number of layups and was outplayed by Derrick Nix. It was one of those days where Sims just didn’t have it.
- Zack Gibson looked like he was the only one that wanted to play, even if most of his production came once the game was well out of hand. 10 points (2-3 shooting) with 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
- Darius Morris didn’t manage a single assist and had five turnovers but he also made a few nice plays and did a decent job containing Kalin Lucas (10 points, 2-8 shooting, 2 asst).
I’m sure these quotes from Izzo and Beilein’s presser will get plenty of play over the next couple days. There’s no doubt that MSU plays a different brand of basketball. There’s no denying that they grab you a lot. There’s also no doubt that they are going to be allowed to play that way.
Related to physical play, I think the most appalling thing here is just how much bigger and stronger Michigan State’s players are. There are only three players on the MSU roster under 200 pounds (Lucas, Lucious, and Dahlman) and two of them are 6-foot and under. Michigan’s roster is littered with guys under 200 pounds including Harris, Douglass, Lucas-Perry, and Morris. There is a striking difference between wing players like Allen and Summers compared to Harris at 185 is a striking difference. Sims (235) consistently was pushed around by MSU post players like Green (235), Roe (230), and Nix (280). I don’t think it would be wrong to raise some sort of strength and conditioning question, but Michigan has had three different S&C coaches over the last three seasons so who knows where to begin.
Next up: Iowa on Thursday in Indianapolis (2:30 PM ESPN2). This is the third year in a row that Michigan has played Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Michigan won both games in Indianapolis and is 2-0 versus Iowa this year. Full Big Ten Tournament bracket.