A very nice win for the Spartans. A hostile environment. An opponent that played with confidence on both ends of the floor. A night when MSU’s shots just wouldn’t seem to drop. And MSU still found a way to win: 66-61.
I have to confess my hopes weren’t too high at the eight-minute TV time-out. I just wasn’t sure MSU would be able to make enough high-pressure shots down the stretch to pull ahead. But hit them they did. They had five possessions between the 5:11 and 1:48 marks and scored on all five of them: Neitzel, Naymick, Lucas, Lucas, Suton (from Morgan on the inbounds play).
And give them credit for hanging around as long as they did. For most of the second half, I was surprised whenever I looked the scoreboard and realized they weren’t down by that many points. (I took this one in at a local watering hole and had to stretch my neck to see the score around the guy sitting in front of me.)
This is the kind of game that will pay dividends down the stretch, both in terms of the team’s confidence level in close games on the road or in neutral settings and in terms of their resume for the NCAA selection committee when it comes time to seed teams for the Big Dance. Bradley is a good team. We were only three-point favorites going into this game; the result shouldn’t be construed as “escaping an upset.”
On to the stats. Box score here:
- Tough night shooting for Neitzel. Only 13 points on 16 FG attempts. He was surprisingly aggressive early. Then the shots stopped falling. He wasn’t taking bad shots; the toughest shot he may have taken was the three-pointer he hit to pull them within one with five minutes left. I think his shot is just slightly off at the moment, as indicated by the disproportionate number of free throw misses he’s had of late.
- Luckily, Bradley didn’t have much of an answer for Morgan and Gray inside. They combined for just 25 points on 15 FG attempts. Morgan was 9-11 from the free throw line.
- Kalin Lucas picked a great time to put a big-time offensive performance. 13 points on seven FG attempts–including his first three-point make of the season. And it was a huge one, stretching the lead to four just past the three-minute mark.
- MSU only put up an effective FG% of 43.2%. Again, I think that was mainly a function of some good looks just not falling. Caught Izzo on the radio after the game. He said he thought they executed better on offense than the stat sheet shows. I’d say that’s an accurate assessment.
- Bradley can definitely shoot the three. They only made 8 of 25 (32.0%) but a bunch of those were very long looks. MSU did a good job of extending the defense. In the first half, Bradley took advantage by moving the ball quickly and getting easy looks around the hoop. In the second half, I don’t think they were as methodical in taking advantage of MSU aggressiveness in playing perimeter defense.
- Rebounding is, of course, what kept them in the game. They pulled down 21 out of 40 offensive rebounding opportuniites (52.5%) and 27 out of 37 defensive rebounding opportunities (73.0%). Suton had 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Naymick put up a quiet 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play.
- Surprized Izzo didn’t go with the smaller Morgan-as-power-forward lineup more. The three big men (no Ibok) played a combined 70 minutes, implying MSU only went small for 10 minutes. The big men seemed to do a fairly good job when Bradley’s picking forced them to guard small players on the perimeter, though. Interesting to see all three point guards on the floor for a good stretch at the end of the game.
I’m sure Izzo was questioning why he scheduled this game at tip-off tonight. But, in the end, it was exactly the kind of game a developing team needs to play before we hit the conference season.
Next game: At BYU. 4:00 Saturday afternoon. On the Versus network.