The Spartans grind out a 70-58 victory against the Gophers in a 61-possession game. Unofficial box score.
MSU’s performance today deserves that oft-used moniker of “workmanlike.” Outside of a brief Gopher spurt to close MSU’s lead to one point going into halftime, the Spartans played with intensity for 40 minutes, slowly building a lead that eventually reached 19 points with two minutes remaining.
And they did all the things we thought they had to do to pull this game out:
- Defended well on the perimeter: The Gophers were forced into taking 21 of their 53 shots from 3-point range. And very few of them were good looks, as Minnesota converted just 6 of those 21 shots (28.6%).
- Allowed Minnesota to steal the ball only 6 times–accounting for just under half of MSU’s 13 turnovers (TO%=21.3%).
- Took good shots, resulting in just 5 blocked shots by the Gophers (led by Damian Johnson’s three).
- Took advantage of Minnesota’s weakness on the defensive glass, pulling down 23 of 39 offensive rebounding opportunities for a whopping offensive rebounding percentage of 59.0%. Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton led the way with 5 offensive boards each.
From a four-factors perspective, offensive rebounding was clearly the difference:
Kalin Lucas found his jumpshot just in time for the commencement of conference play. 24 points on 9-18 FG shooting. He scored from 3-point range, on mid-range shots, and going all the way to the basket. This is a very, very good sign. Just two assists, but Travis Walton picked up the slack with 5 assists (vs. just one turnover).
Outside of Lucas, the only real sources of scoring were offensive rebounding (11 points for Suton, 10 points for Morgan) and some early Chris Allen jumpshots (3-8 three-point shooting).
Morgan didn’t match-up well with Minnesota’s multiple shot-blockers, but, once again, he stayed within himself–even when his outside shot wasn’t falling. He didn’t turn the ball over a single time and played hard for all 30 minutes he was on the floor. I dare say he’s turned a major corner in terms of his psychological approach to the game.
I didn’t think our depth would be an advantage in this game, but Izzo extended the rotation to 12 guys (with Isaiah Dahlman getting some token minutes in front of the hometown crowd). As a result, our starters looked fresher than their’s at the end of the game. Delvon Roe played 5 minutes–all in the first half, I think. I assume his ankle didn’t respond very well.
Izzo played Morgan at the 3 and 4 spots in rough equal measures, by my calculations. Minor gripe: Can we get Marquise Gray a few more minutes? He hasn’t played more than 12 minutes in any of the last four games. I may be missing something, but he’s seemed pretty solid on both ends of the court. None of the glaring mental lapses on defense and a decent low-post threat on offense. His rebounding numbers are down a bit, though.
The bottom line today is a road victory against a ranked opponent to start conference play. Given that two other ranked Big Ten teams failed to win their conference openers at home, that’s worthy of some sort of Youtube-based celebration. Our friend Brian began a tradition of celebrating key wins with Muppet videos this fall. Ever since, I’ve been trying to think of something that’s better than the Muppets.
But, of course, there is nothing in the known universe better than the Muppets. I’ve decided, therefore, to go with the less-ingenious, but nevertheless appropriate, “Dance of Joy” from everyone’s favorite sitcom of the late 1980s, Perfect Strangers:
Next up: On the road against Northwestern. Saturday at 7:00 on BTN.
P.S. Speaking of our friends from Ann Arbor: Disappointing result for them this afternoon. Tough start to conference play for Manny Harris: 3-13 from the field. I can’t believe I fell into the trap of underestimating the Badgers going into conference play, after criticizing the national pundits for doing it last year. In my defense, the nonconference statistical indicators weren’t there this season, the way they were a year ago. And it remains to be seen if they can score consistently against nonporous defenses.