The Spartans knock out the Grizzlies 82-66 in a 65-possession game. Official box score.
For once, I got the keys to the game right: rebounding and 3-point shooting. MSU out-rebounded Oakland at both ends of the court and knocked down 11 of 20 three-point attempts (55.0%), resulting in the four-factor graph below:
- Perimeter shooting. Kalin Lucas, Travis Walton, and Durrell Summers combined to score 39 points on 7-9 three-point shooting.
- Rebounding: Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton both posted 9 rebounds, Suton in just 22 minutes. Rebounding percentages of 80.0% (defensive) and 46.7% (offensive) are as good as you can hope for in a given game.
- Passing: 25 assists on 32 made field goals for MSU (78.1%). The Spartans consistently found ways to beat Oakland’s zone by passing the ball both around the perimeter and through the interior. Six players had at least two assists: Lucas, Morgan, Allen, Walton, Suton, and Roe. Another game with one turnover or fewer for Kalin Lucas.
- Goran Suton: His offensive game shows no signs of rust: 16 points on 7-9 FG shooting, including two made 3-pointers.
- Tightened rotation: It appears Izzo has settled on a nine-player rotation going into conference play, which is the optimal number in my book. Lucas, Walton, Allen, Summers, Morgan, Green, Roe, Gray, Suton. Korie Lucious only played once the outcome of the game had been decided. Ibok will probably play more than Green in some games, depending on match-ups. That rotation presumes that we play a big lineup, with Morgan at the 3, most of the time.
- Chris Allen: He scored just 3 points on 6 FG attempts, despite playing 21 minutes. He can’t seem to find his shooting rhythm, despite getting some good early looks again, and that affects his entire game. His defense suffered in this game, as he gave up several easy baskets when he drifted off his man. Several of Eric Kangas’ baskets (15 points on 9 FG attempts) came when Allen was guarding him.
- Raymar Morgan: 8 points on 11 FG attempts. Despite his 4 turnovers, I do think he’s learning to play within himself a little more, as evidenced by his 5 assists. As I said earlier this year, on this team Morgan may just need to be content to be one cog in the machine on offense, rather than the go-to guy. His passing in the last two games would indicate he might be starting to find the right balance.
- Interior defense: MSU couldn’t stop Keith Benson, who scored 20 points on 12 FG attempts. Part of the problem is Suton’s lack of conditioning, I think.
All things considered, Michigan State is in a pretty good position going into conference play: a 9-2 record with both Goran Suton and Delvon Roe (who apparently just tweaked an ankle) healthy enough to play 20+ minutes per game.
Big Ten play kick off with a pretty stiff test: A trip to The Barn to play undefeated Minnesota on New Year’s Eve (Noon; BTN).