The last 11 seconds–when the game was effectively out of reach–sum this game up: Purdue misses the front end of a one-on-one to keep the lead at 6. Neitzel grabs the rebound and heads up court. Rather than allowing Neitzel to take a 3-pointer–which would have no doubt been a low-percentage shot, but would have at least given MSU a slim shot at a miracle comeback–Izzo calls a timeout to set up a play. MSU inbounds the ball, attempts a dribble hand-off and–surprise, surprise–Purdue strips the ball.
Even if the play Izzo called had worked, it would have taken up too much time for MSU to possibly have gotten the ball back. And like nearly every other set play MSU tried to run tonight, Purdue’s aggressive perimeter defense stymied it.
This play obviously didn’t cost the MSU the game; the game was effectively over. But it’s symptomatic of what did: insistence on trying to run a scripted offense against a team determined to disrupt that offense, rather than letting players make unscripted plays when the situation calls for it
On to the recap: Purdue takes down MSU 60-54. Purdue climbed out to a
34-16 34-18 lead at halftime. MSU turned it over an astounding 14 times in the first half as Purdue’s swarming defense on the perimeter created turnover after turnover. Without Kalin Lucas’ improvised penetration, MSU might not have gotten to double digits by halftime.
MSU showed some moxie in the second half, locking down Purdue on defense and scoring a series of scrappy buckets inside when their perimeter shooting continued to be nonexistent. They climbed to within one point with 3 minutes left, but Purdue came up with one more Hummel-led scoring run to put it away for good.
So much for Robbie Hummel being a “quasi-star.” The freshman made his national debut as a full-fledged star tonight, causing Musberger and Lavin to compare him to a certain former U.S. Senator from the great state of New Jersey. He finished with 24 points on 9-15 shooting and 11 rebounds. And that stat line doesn’t do his performance justice; his hustle and headiness were difference makers throughout the game.
The thing that frustrates me about this game–as I’ve begun to divulge above–is how ill-prepared MSU came out for this game offensively. They knew the Purdue crowd would be rocking. They knew the Purdue players would be pumped up and playing aggressively on defense. But MSU came out and ran their offense like they were playing a nonconference also-ran. They tried to move the ball around the perimeter with hand-offs and simple passes to set up their offense.
Purdue would have nothing of it. They hounded MSU for 20 solid minutes. MSU either turned the ball over in a variety of creative ways (more on that coming from GBBound in the comment section) or wasted so much time trying to pass the ball, that they ran out of shot clock. The latter scenario occurred on the very first two possessions of the game. On several occasions, Purdue stripped the ball when MSU telegraphed their intent to execute a dribble hand-off–a staple of the MSU attack that Purdue had obviously noticed on film.
The only offense they got was when Lucas entered the game and used his quickness to beat the pressure and create shots for himself. He finished the game with 20 of MSU’s 54 points. shooting 7-10 from the field.
Going forward, Izzo simply has to give Lucas more freedom on offense. He’ll make some mistakes; there’s no doubt about it. But trying to run their standard offense against good defenses is consistently resulting in large amounts of turnovers.
As a corollary, it’s time to replace Walton with Lucas in the starting lineup again. I love Walton. He’s a tough, gutsy player, and he’s going to be a tremendous asset on defense until his final game as a Spartan next season. But he brings absolutely nothing on offense. Early in the game, he’d dribble past pressure, only to pull the ball back out again because he can’t create going to the hoop. Lucas needs to be in the game at the outset to establish MSU’s ability to beat pressure and force opponents to give them some breathing room.
OK. See how I said I was going to start with the game recap, but then fell right back into rant mode? On to the box score. To add to my angst this evening, there’s an inordinate delay in posting the official box score, so I’m linking to the ESPN box score. (Unofficial boxscores don’t break out offensive/defensive team rebounds.)
- MSU finished with
1719 turnovers in about66 possessions ( 25.8%28.8%). Purdue had only 11 turnovers (16.7%).
- MSU didn’t make up for the turnover deficit on the boards, pulling down only
46 individualoffensive rebounds in 28 opportunities (21.4%).
- 0-5 3-point shooting for MSU. Horrific game for Neitzel, who missed 4 of the 5 3-point attempts. All of them were tough looks.
- I don’t recall that MSU made a shot from further out than about 12 feet (Lucas floaters, Naymick set shot). Reminiscent of the Illinois game.
- This game was close enough for MSU to make a run only because Purdue cooled off from beyond the arc in the second half. They finished 7-24 (29.2%). As the announcers indicated, this may have been due to fatigued legs. They cooled off in the second half against Wisconsin, too. This is something for Painter to address for Purdue to keep their run through the conference going: finding other ways to score when the 3-pointes aren’t dropping.
- Morgan finished with a decent stat line: 12 points on 5-9 shooting and 7 rebounds. But he looked like a shell of his former self whenever they showed him on the bench. He was only able to use his size and athleticism to create shots near the basket for a short stretch in the second half. He’s clearly lost his moxie.
- How did Naymick only get credited with one blocked shot? Seems like he easily had 3-4. Tremendous hustle play by the Big Red Head during the second half run, when he sprinted to bat a ball away from the sideline that seemed destined to roll out of bounds.
- Izzo went with the small lineup less than I thought he would. There were two bigs (Suton/Naymick/Gray) in the game for 25 of the 40 minutes. It pretty clearly backfired. I thought the bigs played decent perimeter defense most of the game, but Hummel did take advantage of mismatches against bigger players on several opportunities. And there was no payoff in terms on offense, as evidenced by the small number of offensive rebounds and Suton’s limited touches in the post.
This loss knocks MSU out of the conference race for good. It’s time to set our sites on the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. The jig is up as far as MSU’s offense goes. Opponents know if they can force MSU out a rhythm, the team can’t adjust. That has to change, or it’s going to be a rough end to the conference season. And the teams we play in the NCAA Tournament will certainly have seen this game film.
With both our games against the Boilermakers in the books, I’ll be rooting for Purdue to win the conference. They’re a great story–and a great team, one that will only get better over the next two years. When Izzo shook Painter’s hand after the game, you could see he stepped away from MSU’s struggles for just a moment. He had a look of genuine pride for what Painter’s done with this team as he congratulated him on the win. Perhaps Painter reminded Izzo of himself just 10 short years ago . . .
Update: I’ve corrected a few stats above based on the official box score.
Update 2: Joe Rexrode says, “Give the keys to Lucas.”