The Spartans vandalize the Vandals 100-62 in a 70 69-possession game (seemed faster than that, didn’t it?).
In a game with plenty of scoring by the good guys, let’s start by talking about a player who didn’t make a single field goal: Delvon Roe must have had the most impressive one-point debut by a freshman in the history of college basketball. He didn’t make either of the shots he took from the field, but he did manage to put up 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, and a steal in just 14 minutes of play. Two plays that stick out in my mind: (1) biting on a pump fake inside but still managing to recover to block the shot and (2) leading a fast break in the second half with all of the agility of a 6’0″ guard. And he already looks like a team leader on the floor. Roe is going to be a very, very special player by the time he’s done in East Lansing.
My wife and I were able to attend tonight’s game, owing to the graciousness of a friend. And I’m happy to report that Mrs. SW has a new favorite Spartan: Mr. Austin Thornton. She’s always had a weak spot for walk-ons (with Mat Ishbia, of course, being her all-time fav), so when I explained Thornton’s background to her (could have played MAC ball but wanted to be a Spartan enough to enroll as a walk-on), it was a no-brainer. And his shooting performance (9 points on perfect 3-3 three-point shooting) and gutsiness (coming back from a very hard blow to the face–that was apparently one of the few kinds of physical contact that is not a foul in Ed Hightower’s book) certainly helped endear him to my lovely wife. Thornton looks like a serious contender for the 10th spot in the playing rotation.
As for the rest of the team, everyone did what they were supposed to do: score points in bunches and, for the most part, overwhelm a weaker opponent on defense. Eight players scored at least 6 points, led by Morgan and Allen with 21 each. The team continues to look good shooting the ball from the perimeter, making 11 of 21 three-point shots (52.4%) tonight. Kalin Lucas was near perfect, scoring 13 points on just 4 FG tries and recording 9 assists versus zero turnovers.
On the other end of the floor, MSU’s defensive pressure contributed to Idaho giving up the ball 22 times (DefTO% of 31.4% 31.9%). Most of those were of the flustered, indirectly-forced variety, though, as MSU recorded only 7 steals.
The two weak spots on the stat sheet were (1) allowing the Vandals to pull down 14 of 36 offensive rebouning opporunities (38.9%) and (2) givng up a few too many good 3-point looks, as Idaho made 6 of 13 shots from beyond the arc (46.2%). I’m not sure how to explain the rebounding issues; it wasn’t something I noted during the game. Juco transfer Brandon Wiley had 5 of Idaho’s 14 offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, Goran Suton didn’t pull down a single defensive rebound; his knee may be limiting his aggressiveness on the boards.
I like how Izzo has decided to use Travis Walton–as a wing player. Korie Lucious was the exclusive back-up to Lucas, playing the entire 13 minutes that Lucas wasn’t in the game. This allows Walton to focus on being the defensive stopper and simply making mid-range looks at the basket on offense.
Another senior, Marquise Gray, continues to impress. He was assertive on offense when opportunities arose, making a 19-foot jumper at one point. And he pulled down 8 rebounds in just 18 minutes. I tried to focus on Gray on the defensive end when he was in the game and, to my eyes at least, he seemed to avoid any major mental lapses. Having a big man of Gray’s athleticism coming off the bench could be an enormous asset this season if he can continue to play with confidence.
Despite the bench getting completely emptied by the time this game was over, Isaiah Dahlman didn’t make an appearance. This may signal that Izzo has decided on, or is contemplating, a redshirt year for him. I’m not sure what to think about this. On one hand, it probably makes the most sense for Dahlman, given that the team has six guards ready to contribute on the court at a higher level than he is at this point in his career. On the other hand, it would severely limit Izzo’s recruiting flexibility, leaving only one more scholarship to be handed out between the 2009 and 2010 classes (i.e., get Jamil Wilson and you’re done until 2011).
Update: Dahlman didn’t play due to a dislocated finger. So never mind.
In conclusion, blowing out a weaker opponent on your home court is an exciting, yet relaxing, way to start the season (and not all ranked teams made it look so easy today). Next up: A road game in Fort Wayne on Wednesday. There’s no TV coverage; any volunteers to make the drive down and serve as the official Spartans Weblog correspondent?