Friday, February 10, 2012

Defensive Score Sheet: Penn State @ Michigan State

Outside a 23-6 run spanning 7:30, the Spartans did what most expected them to do against Penn State: Beat the Nittany Lions handily.

Penn State went scoreless through the game's first 7:40, but its own defense kept the game within reach as Michigan State only had a 9-0 lead at that point.

Nevertheless, as the progressed, Michigan State exerted its will - both offensively and defensively - in the 77-57 victory against the Big Ten's doormat.

Michigan State's Defensive Score Sheet for the game is below. (For a recap on what the numbers mean and how they're calculated, read this previous 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, how many 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.



1. Now that's some defense, Travis Trice. It has been noted here and via many other media outlets that Trice's defense is what has him spending more time on the bench as the season progresses. In nine Big Ten games (Trice did not play due to a hip/groin injury when MSU hosted Minnesota), Trice has only had a better DRtg than the team three times (at Wisconsin, at Northwestern, Penn State). Technically, Trice had his best defensive game against Wisconsin (86.7 compared to MSU's 91.9 DRtg). And while even his numbers against Northwestern (119.5 vs. MSU's 123.7), his play was most noteworthy in Wednesday's game. Trice was only four points below MSU's DRtg (81.9 to 85.9), but he did a phenomenal job on PSU's Tim Frazier in stretches and also forced 2 1/3 turnovers. Trice was moving his feet laterally better than he has all season and that's a big plus for the Spartans, who would much rather have Trice on the floor for 20 minutes than play him 12 and used a variety of other players (namely Brandan Kearney) to fill the leftover minutes.

2. Draymond Green had a quietly solid game. Despite his nine defensive rebounds, Green was very quiet on defense against the Nittany Lions. That's mostly because Penn State played 1-(Tim Frazier)-on-5 for much of the night and the bigs didn't really get involved.

3. Keith Appling held his own against Frazier. MSU used multiple guys on Frazier. Appling, Trice, Dawson, Kearney and even Wood took turns guarding Penn State's do-it-all guard. Appling's quickness negated Frazier getting to the hole. A few chippy fouls as well as some lazy defense at times allowed Frazier to get to the line on Appling's behalf. Those free throws (Penn State went 5 of 6 from the FT line on Appling fouls) brought down the numbers in what was an otherwise stellar game.

4. Russell Byrd is really struggling. Last year's medical redshirt is becoming an outdated excuse for Byrd. While many MSU fans are waiting for him to light up the scoreboard due to his apparently outstanding 3-point shooting, Izzo is waiting for him to play average man-to-man defense. Byrd is slow off screens and even slower reacting to drive-and-kicks. If he's to play key minutes, that has to change.

5. Speaking of slow to react, Austin Thornton was a few steps slow. While he had some stops, Thornton was very late getting to 3-point shooters all game. Had Penn State been a little more accurate (the Nittany Lions finished 6 of 20 from 3-point range), this game could have been a lot closer. Thornton got a hand up every time, but each field goal he allowed was a drive-and-kick three that he was late getting to a shooter. For the first time in weeks, Thornton looked like a former walk-on.

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