Five Key Plays: Michigan State 89, Michigan 73

Zach Shaw

For the second time in five days, the Michigan basketball team was embarrassed on its home court by a rival. This time, the opponent was No. 10 Michigan State, and the Wolverines were throttled from start to finish.

A day after a drubbing that saw the Spartans lead by as much as 30 and empty the bench well before the final buzzer sounded, we look at the five key plays from the game.

1) Michigan State starts out hot

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game that he doesn’t want the Spartans to be known as a 3-point shooting team, but the Spartans certainly looked the part early and often on Saturday. Before Michigan’s offense fell off the rails, it was already in a hole thanks to Michigan State’s three 3-pointers on three attempts in the game’s opening two minutes.

“I thought the execution we had offensively early, getting (Bryn) Forbes shots,” Izzo said. “I thought that was the difference in this game.”

Michigan State opened the game with a perfectly executed set to get Forbes an open look as Derrick Walton gets stuck in a double-screen by Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis. The next MSU bsaket is a transition look for Eron Harris that occurs two seconds into the shot clock over Walton again.

The second triple by Forbes is a mistake by Duncan Robinson who gets screened taking the wrong route as Forbes flares off the screen for an open triple.

2) Michigan has a chance, but misses it

After falling behind by 18 early, the Wolverines showed a little bit of fight toward the end of the first half, finally picking up stops on defense through a zone defense and cutting the deficit to 11.

But with the lead cut to 11, Michigan just couldn’t get over the hump. The Wolverines just missed out on a couple of transition opportunities and then come up empty on offense, first with a missed runner in the lane by Duncan Robinson then with a pair of pick-and-pop three-point attempts by Mark Donnal.

The Wolverines needed offense in this stretch to finally cut into the lead, but just came up short.

“We’re having trouble stopping people — elite teams. We’re going to have to out-score them,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “That’s the only way we can beat elite teams right now … we’ve got to be on fire.”

3) Michigan State pours it on to end the half

While Michigan’s zone look had temporary success against the Spartans, it was short-lived. Michigan State — which leads the nation in assist rate — moved the ball to perfection against the Wolverines’ 1-3-1 zone to come away with two open triples for Bryn Forbes — close to automatic points, as he scored 2.23 points per shot in this game — to stretch the lead back to 16.

“We’re ready to play (zone) at different times during the season and for different things,” Beilein said. “We couldn’t stop them man-to-man, and then we went to zone for a short bit, and we probably should have gotten out of it after it worked a few times.”

The zone did seem to speed the Spartans up on offense for the first few possessions, but there’s no question that Michigan stuck with the zone for too long. After a couple timeouts and stoppages, Michigan State had a few wrinkles queued up and executed them perfectly.

4) Michigan State dominates inside

After draining 10 3-pointers and only two layups in the first half, the Spartans showcased their balance on offense in the second. They made it a priority to feed forward Matt Costello in the paint and he produced against Mark Donnal. 

“I think that’s what I’m proudest of,” Izzo said. “I’m worried a little bit about becoming a 3-point shooting team, I don’t want that. We can be a shooting team … but we’ve got to be balanced. We have to be able to go inside and get it outside.

“I think that was very key for our team to understand. That we need everybody, and Matt did a great job.”

5) Spartans pour it on

After falling behind early, the Wolverines actually kept pace with Michigan State. It wasn’t close, but it wasn’t over either. But with just over 11 minutes to go in the game, the Spartans went on an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 27.

Michigan closed the gap in garbage time, but suffered its second blowout loss in a week, putting its postseason goals in jeopardy.

“Our kids are trying everything that they’ve got. Everything they’ve got,” Beilein said. “I’ll tell you the same thing I said at Indiana, they’re so much better than us, you guys have to be looking at that, and we have to get better.

“We’ve just got to get better through improvement, through maturation, through our guys getting older and avoiding injuries, then we can play. It’s really hard right now.”

  • Wayman Britt

    Some people are calling for a change at head coach, That is way to drastic. Beilein is a great coach, but just like he did 6 years ago, he needs to look inward and evaluate his whole program, including evolving as a coach himself. Here are some things he may want to evaluate:

    1. Increased versality in the type of player he recruits. You can have some unathletic great 3 pt shooters, but not a roster full of them. Make sure at least one player in the class is an aggressive, little nasty, great defender. I don’t care if he cannot shot a three.

    2. Increase the footspeed of the roster.

    3. Maybe it’s time one of his assistants took a HC job, then replace with a coach who is an expert on teaching defense. Beilein is an offensive genius, just needs help on teaching defense. After 6 years maybe time to change things up a bit. Maybe a prolific recruiter is needed. New ideas/ways.

    4. Take a tip from Harbaugh, move along some of the roster, especially the player(s) who do not have the talent to play in the Big Ten. I know this may seem harsh to some posters, but all great programs do this. Roster turn over is not all bad. It can be done diplomatically.

    5. Don’t be afraid to recruit a few more players from the Detroit area or Michigan in general. The talent is no where near where it used to be, but athletic, speedy players can be found. With the rule changes, dribble drive skills are a must.

    • bobohle

      I echo all five of your points. Couldn’t of said it better. Always TRUE BLUE!

    • AA7596

      Yes—agreed on all points.

      For two years now, we’ve assumed that this team would take flight at some point and that it was just one unfortunate thing or another that was holding it back. The draft departures in 2014; the youth of the bigs; the injuries; the close losses last year. It’s time for some real introspection like Britt said.

  • rlcBlue

    So I thought the first key play was on Michigan’s first offensive possession: when Robinson tried to cut to the basket, Valentine wrapped him up in both arms like he just realized he wanted to tell Duncan “I love you, bruh” and the ref standing 10 feet away was too embarrassed by this public display of affection to blow his whistle. At that point I turned to my wife and said “They’re going to kill us.”

    But thank you UM Hoops for showing me that I should have realized sooner how the game was going to be called. Look at that “perfectly executed play” for Forbes at the beginning of the first clip, 5 seconds into the game. Watch Costello and Davis move together and bump hips, cutting off Walton like the doors at CONTROL closing on Maxwell Smart’s nose. The referee, watching 40% of the visitors simultaneously set a moving screen, makes it a point of emphasis… to do nothing.

    They’re stronger, more experienced, healthier – the only (admittedly pretty slim) chance we had at competing was if the refs were to blow the whistle early. Instead they waited until the game was over.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      Well said.

    • Tuff Enough

      I agree and that was the 3 Blind Pigs on the Floor!

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    That Walton play where there is a scramble while he is ahead of the man and it manages to go off him and the play where Irvin has a nice look and it looks about 90% in and then rims out(I still have no clue how that didn’t go in, and missed open three especially that last one before half from Donnal just symbolized the day. Even when we made the right play, pass, hustle, and shot, nothing went our way. It was almost amazing to see the garbage that would go the other way and to see every little thing for us not go our way.