Ypsilanti, MI

 

Spartans Talent Takes Over in the Second Half

The Michigan State University men’s basketball team traveled here to Ypsilanti today to take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles and came away with a 72-40 win. The Spartans were far from impressive as I am convinced I moved from one napping position to another on Thanksgiving with more focus and urgency than they displayed today in the first half.  Luckily the Spartans were able to make up for their sloppy play with talent and in the second half they ran away with it.

                To be blunt, the Spartans struggled in the first half with nine turnovers and only a plus two rebounding edge. They were able to head into intermission with a 25-13 lead thanks to EMU shooting 20% and committing 10 turnovers. 

I credit the 20% shooting more to poor shooting by the Eastern players opposed to great defense by the Spartans. Throughout much of the first half Spartan players could be seen breathing hard and looking tired. The only two positives to come from the first half was Adreian Payne’s nine points and four rebounds and the fact that the half ended; that is a statement that I feel both teams would agree with.

                 The Spartans were able to extend their 12-point half time lead to 19 less than four minutes into the second half. They did this by attacking the basket more aggressively and using their size and athleticism to clean up on the offensive boards, create turnovers, and get out on the break.

I don t understand why it took MSU a full half to realize they had more talent inside compared to EMU but once they did, they were able to maintain a comfortable lead and dominate the game like they should. One team hangs banners for participating in the N.I.T and the other Final Four Banners. The Spartans should have dominated from the get go.

 I give MSU credit for taking care of business in the second half, but much of the second half run was due to having better talent. That will work against EMU but is not something that can be relied upon to win games in the Big Ten.  In the second half there were still silly plays such as post passes into Derrick Nix s feet. It is hard to tell if we are seeing red flags or the result of Izzo’s constant line up tinkering.

Overall, for the game the Spartans held EMU to 28. 6 % shooting, caused 18 turnovers, held a 49-29 rebounding edge, stayed out of foul trouble, and shot 70 % from the foul line (that stat was around 75% until some late game misses). With that said, we saw some familiar problems from the Spartans such as shooting 16.7 % from three, 16 turnovers and at times looking dysfunctional on the offense end.

I would like to forewarn you that when reading the next sentence you will not be experiencing déjà vu even though it will feel like it.  Draymond Green was the leader for the Spartans with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Payne added 12 points and eight rebounds, while Keith Appling added 11 points, three rebounds and five assists

After the game coach Izzo said, “I thought some guys had phenomenal days.” Izzo said. Derrick Nix may not have stood out on the stat line but, “he covered the low post, he helped out on guys, and he caused some problems by stepping out on baseline things saving our guards.”

There have been many adjectives tossed around to describe Nix’s turn around but I think it is time we start to throw the word dependable around when talking about him. Ninety percent of the questions he fields revolve around his weight loss and past personal issues. As a fan base, when do we stop focusing on his issues from the past few years and start focusing on the type of player and person he is?

When can we start having a discussion about Nix without talking about weight? I asked Nix after the game, what he thinks he has to accomplish to stop the nonstop questions about his weight loss and what it will take to stop being defined by weight loss and past personal issues. His response was, “Just keep doing what I have been doing, staying positive, keep my weight down, staying consistent and being a better teammate.”

The other player Izzo spoke highly about was Keith Appling. Izzo said Appling “Pushed the ball better, in my mind he did it better than anyone we had here since Cleaves or maybe back to Eric Snow. He seemed to have another gear and boy it really opened some things up.”

 Izzo said overall, “We are making some progress, but the first question should be how we can continue to miss open shots and still turn the ball over.” Unfortunately Izzo did not have much of an answer saying, “If we keep playing the defense we played and rebound like we are rebounding, that shots going to come.”

Russell Byrd also showed some positive signs today going 1-2 from three and leading the fast break on a few occasions. Most importantly it was nice to see Byrd smile when he was on the court.

After the game I asked him what the three at the end of the game could mean for his confidence going forward he said, “My confidence will always be there but it helps to always hit a shot, it helps on the next shot to know you just hit one.  Against Florida State I’m going to be as confident as ever and go out there and do my job and shoot.” When asked how he felt running the break Byrd said, “You can’t screw it up but it felt good, I felt like I was in high school.” For the record the next time he runs the break he promised a no look pass.

To wrap it up MSU has added some weight to their victory waistline of late with some cupcakes. The question is how will the Spartans be able to digest a team that is closer to them talent wise? The answer to that question will come Wednesday as Spartans face Florida State in the ACC Big Ten challenge. Till then continue to tune into Spartan Nation as we continue to provide the highest quality and FREE coverage of Michigan State University athletics.