MSU runs by the Braves 75-59 in a 78-possession game. Official box score.
The final margin was right in the range it should be against a medium-strength mid-major like Bradley. But this win felt unsatisfying for several reasons:
- MSU came out looking unprepared and a step slow against Bradley’s perimter-oriented offense. The Braves scored 17 points in the first 5 minutes to grab a 6-point lead.
- Oddly, in light of Bradley’s playing style, the MSU big men seemed to struggle defensively, racking up a multitude of fouls and sending Bradley to the free throw line 26 times. Delvon Roe fouled out and Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green each ended the game with 4 fouls. As a result, Travis Walton ended up having to play in the 4 spot for 15 minutes (per Tom Izzo). Bradley’s one interior threat, Theron Wilson, was their leading scorer, finishing with 16 points on 9 FG attempts.
- Kalin Lucas continued to struggle mightily shooting the ball. He was very efficient once again in terms of ballhandling (9 assists vs. 1 turnover) but made only 3 of 15 FG attempts. He did get to the line 6 times, making 5 of those shots to finish with 12 points.
- After his surprsing performance against North Carolina, I thought Raymar Morgan might have crossed the bridge toward more consistent game-to-game performance. But he struggled with fouls once again today. And he finished with only 7 points, as he never got into a rhythm on offense. Morgan did chip in 10 rebounds.
- Turnovers; MSU’s turned the ball over on 19 of 78 possessions (24.4%). That’s the fifth consecutive game they’ve been over 20%, going back to the Maryland game. There are too many sloppy plays being made seven games into the season. Morgan, Travis Walton, Korie Lucious, and Durrell Summers each commited 3+ turnovers. (For whatever reason, these turnovers don’t seem as frustrating to me as those from the Great Turnover Curse of 2006-07 and Two-Thirds of 2007-08, though. Further investigation is warranted.)
MSU did end up putting together a very solid defensive performance. They held Bradley to 42 points in the final 35 minutes of the game, holding them to just one 3-point make in that period of time. Defensive rebounding was a key, as they pulled down 35 of 43 defensive rebounding opportunities (81.4%) for the game. Draymond Green was active on the boards, pulling down 5 of them in 15 minutes, 4 on the defensive end.
Offensively, Chris Allen’s performance was certainly an encouragement. He came out actively looking for his shot again and ended up scoring 19 points on 5-9 three-point shooting. That was enough to get MSU in the vicinity of a point per possession today. But it won’t be enough against quality opponents. Lucas, Morgan, and Allen all need to be on top of their games for this team to really be good (at least until Suton gets back).
The game against Texas in Houston on the 20th looms large. It’ll be the last opportunity for MSU to get a win (or even a solid performance) against a ranked team before conference play begins. After the team takes their finals this week, they’ll have two tune-ups left before that game. The first one is next Saturday at 6:00 vs. Alcorn State (BTN).