Well, the starting lineup thing worked, huh? With Lucas in the lineup at tip-off, MSU came out attacking the basket. Marquise Gray pulled down a couple tough defensive rebounds. And MSU built an 18-8 lead over the first 9 minutes.
And then . . . IU crushed us . . . like a paper cup.
From the 11 minute mark of the first half on, IU outscored MSU 72-43–despite the fact they played 25 of those 31 minutes without D.J. White, the leading candidate for conference player of the year, on the floor due to a knee injury.
Final score: Indiana 80 MSU 61.
Despite IU’s conference-worst defensive TO% of 17.2%, MSU turned it over 19 times in 67 possessions (28.4%). Indiana didn’t play with the pressure on the perimeter that other Big Ten teams have. For the most part, MSU was able to run its offense and simply gave the ball away in the process. GBBound has the turnover breakdown in the previous comments section. He sums it up succinctly: “No rhyme or reason to any of it. Team looks beaten and without fire.”
I’m out of answers. The Spartans have now played 60 games since the beginning of last season. They have consistently given the ball away on one of every four possessions over that time. The odds they will correct this in the 8+ games that remain this season seem exceedingly small.
On the other end of the court, IU was simply phenomenal scoring the ball. I certainly didn’t think MSU played great defense, but I didn’t see a lot of major defensive breakdowns either. It was simply a matter of Indiana making shots. They made 8 of 18 3-point attempts (44.4%)–most of them contested. DeAndre Thomas, all 295 pounds of him, used his size to provide scoring punch inside to make up for White’s absence. Their wing players made a number of spectacular reverse layups.
And Eric Gordon was positively unstoppable. MSU tried to play him physically, and it worked for the first 10 minutes. But then he elevated his game, knocking down deep jump shots and finding ways to slice his way into the lane to score at the rim or get fouled. 28 points on 9-15 FG shooting and 8-9 FT shooting. That equates to 1.45 points per weighted shot, playing most of the game against a pretty good defender in Travis Walton. On to the NBA for him, I say.
Other observations from the box score:
- Neitzel did what he could tonight, scoring 21 points on 16 FG attempts. He did make a key error, though, failing to pass the ball off on a 3-on-1 fast break with about 4 minutes left that would have reduced the IU lead to 10. He missed the shot, IU scored going the other way, and the game was effectively over.
- Chris Allen stepped up, knocking down 3 of 5 three-point attempts. Despite MSU’s 7-14 shooting from 3-point range, Indiana was happy to settle into a zone for most of the second half.
- The result: MSU couldn’t move the ball within the interior of the zone and got almost no inside scoring. Morgan, Naymick, Gray, Suton, and Ibok combined for just 10 points (7 of them from Naymick).
- Zero points, one rebound, and 4 turnovers for Suton. What’s the opposite of an ode?
- Walton was actually pretty good on offense. 8 points on 4-7 shooting, 4 assists, 2 turnovers. Bringing him off the bench may reduce the pressure on him a bit.
- For the second consecutive game, MSU’s offensive rebounding prowess disappeared. 5 offensive rebounds in 27 opportunities (18.3%). Any time Drew Neitzel is the team’s leading offensive rebounder (with 2), something has gone terribly wrong.
- Raymar Morgan has lost any semblance of confidence on offense. 3 points on 5 FG and 3 FT attempts. His jumpshot looks completely out of whack. Did anyone notice the hitch on his free throw attempts? Has he always done that?
- Vitale was almost bearable tonight. There was some actual analysis of the game. And hearing him be critical of any basketball coach, the way he was of Sampson, is oddly refreshing. But listening to him talk about what a raw deal Bobby Knight got made the last 5 minutes even more miserable than they already had to be.
- Give the IU fans credit. They basically ignored Sampson when he came on to the court before the game. Then they got behind their team and helped push them to a convincing win that keeps them right in the middle of the conference race. And the “stripe out” thing actually looked kind of cool (better than the striped warm-up pants do, at least).
- Kelvin Sampson should quit right now. Despite all of the turmoil swirling around his program–all of it of his own creation–his team came up huge for him on national TV. If you’re going to go out under ugly circumstances, why not at least have your last on-court memory be a good one?
Next game for MSU: Wednesday at 7:00. Breslin Center. Big Ten Network. How depressing is it that this game–and the next vs. Iowa–are revenge games?