Computers are calling Michigan State's 58-48 victory at Ohio State "the best win of the year." Thanks to a stifling defensive effort, that most certainly could be the case.
Ohio State shot just 14 of 53 from the floor, including 2 of 15 from 3-point range. The eFG% (taking into account that 3-pointers are more valuable than 2-pointers, which traditional FG% does not) was a disgusting 28.3 percent. (MSU's eFG% was 44.2 percent in comparison).
Below is the Defensive Score Sheet for the game. (For clarification on the numbers, what they mean, and how they're calculated, read this post). The most important number is each player's defensive rating (DRtg). Its calculations project if "Player X" was on the floor for 100 of his team's defensive possessions, the number of points the opposition would score. Keep in mind the team's overall defensive numbers play a huge factor, but even small variances from the team's DRtg are significant.
5 Takeaways from Michigan State 58, Ohio State 48
1. William Buford and Deshaun Thomas' off days were big for Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Branden Dawson and Austin Thornton. The Key when playing Ohio State is to understand Jared Sullinger is going to get his points; stopping OSU's other weapons is crucial to steal a victory. Green and Wood, in particular, did a tremendous job on Thomas and Buford, respectively. Most of Buford's shots were falling away from the basket and Thomas continuously tried and failed from 3-point range (0 of 5). Dawson also played a role in harassing both deadly shooters. Ohio State's duo combined for a 4-for-24 shooting game from the field and two of those baskets came on fast break or scramble situations (Thomas hit a jumper a few seconds after Ohio State won the opening tip off and Buford capitalized on a 3-on-1 layup in the second half during the Buckeyes' one "big" run).
2. Sullinger had a forgettable "Triple Double" thanks to Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. With all his teammates struggling, Sullinger forced the issue on offense and it showed. While his scoring and rebounding was where most expected, great defense in the post - where Payne and Nix did their best to force him further off the block than he would have liked - and some sneaky double teams forced Sullinger into 10 turnovers. The feat gave Sullinger a 17-point, 16-rebound, 10-turnover triple double, one I'm sure he'd like to forget. The "Cripple Double," as coined by CNNSI's Andy Glockner, wouldn't have happened had Payne and Nix not been such obstacles in the paint. Digest this stat: Coming into the game, Sullinger had 20 turnovers total in the previous 11 Big Ten games.
3. This is Michigan State's best defensive team in the tempo-free era (since 2003) and arguably since "The Flintstones." The table below shows Michigan State is surrendering nearly four points fewer per 100 possessions than any time in the tempo-free era. To put MSU's 83.8 defensive efficiency into perspective, John Calipari's great Memphis teams in 2008 and 2009 had defensive efficiencies of 83.9 and 82.5. While MSU might not be as long and athletic as those Memphis teams, Izzo's defensive strategy has Michigan State playing in much of the same fashion.
4. The charity stripe was Ohio State's best offense. Inevitably, the No. 3 ranked team in the country was going to get some calls on its home floor. And despite Ohio State fans lambasting the officials for much of the game, the foul and free throw disparity was quite visibly in Ohio State's favor all game. The Buckeyes finished with an advantage in free throw attempts (22 to 18) and fouls committed (13 to 17), but it was only that close due to four Ohio State fouls and eight MSU free throw attempts in the final 128 seconds. Taking and delivering a beating to Sullinger all game is what allowed MSU to win, but it also is what negatively inflated Payne's DRtg to where it looks somewhat worse than it should be.
5. Call Austin Thornton "The Eraser." Well, that is probably a little much, but Thornton didn't allow a basket all game. He blanketed Buford and Thomas on switches as well as Lenzelle Smith Jr., on a few plays. He was still a little late closing out on some 3-point shooters, but the late hand-in-the-face might have been enough to force some missed shots.