Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State vs. UConn

Napier and  most of UConn slashed through MSU's defense
for much of Friday night's 66-62 Huskies victory. (AP)

In another "gimmick" game, Tom Izzo's Spartans fell short. Stop me if you've heard this before. I tweeted last night that this really makes Izzo 0-4 in such games going back to the 2003 BasketBowl against Kentucky at Ford Field. 

This one, however, was there for the taking and the Spartans didn't want it. Don't get me wrong: UConn is a really good team, especially with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright occupying the guard spots. But, MSU is the better team and should have never trailed by double digits let alone 16 points (it was 20-6 just 7:23 into the game and 34-18 just 12 minutes into action.

From that point on, the Spartans defense looked like it did for much of the 2011-12 season. The canyon just proved too big to climb.

Below is MSU's Defensive Score Sheet from the game. In-depth explanations are in this post, but here is a cliff notes version:
  • Min - Minutes played
  • DREB - Defensive Rebounds
  • FM - Forced field goal miss (includes blocks)
  • FTO - Forced Turnover (steals, charges taken)
  • FFTA - Forced missed Free Throw Attempt
  • DFGM - Allowed Defensive Field Goal Made
  • DFTM - Allowed Free Throw Made
  • DRtg - Defensive Rating (Gives players credit for stops and scoring possessions)
*The DRtg is most important part of a defensive score sheet as it is the analog of an offensive rating. If a player was on the floor for 100 of his team's defensive possessions, the DRtg calculates the number of points the opposition would score.

OFFENSE NOT THE PROBLEM: Pretty much every beat writer for the Spartans knew Tom Izzo's team would struggle to score in the halfcourt this season. Offense, surprisingly wasn't the problem against UConn in the Armed Forces Classic. Put simply: the defense was atrocious. 

"BK" IS THE DEFENSIVE KING: Izzo has said Brandan Kearney is going to be a key member of the team, doing all the little things. Well, he was phenomenal in a very limited playing time (likely due to MSU needing to focus on scoring points from the get-go due to the huge deficit). What's incredible is in just six minutes of action Kearney was responsible for 4.5 missed shots. It doesn't take sabermetrics to realize that translates to 30 forced missed shots in 40 minutes of game time. Those numbers would make former Kentucky standout Anthony Davis look like former Spartan Brandon Wood.

BIG ISSUES FOR "DERRICK PAYNE": Let the "MSU really misses Draymond Green" chorus begin in 3...2...1... In all honesty, it was more team defense than individual defense. There were a few bad eggs defensively (Payne looked the slowest he's been in his MSU career and Nix continued to put himself in a position to fail defensively), but there were six UConn buckets that came in the fast break, most off a MSU turnover as well as two "someone-lost-their-man" buckets off inbound passes. 

THUMBS UP FOR THE FRESHMEN: I'm sure Izzo will find something to harp on with his rookies - and that's what makes him a great coach is he'll never let his player become satisfied when they can do better. Still, Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine were spectacular, especially on the defensive end. Valentine's eight rebounds in just 24 minutes were Draymond Green-esque and Harris' only defensive miscues came in the latter part of the game. (Of course, some would say Harris' three baskets allowed were all crucial to MSU losing). Harris lost his man for an easy under-the-hoop layup off an inbounds pass and he was responsible for UConn's last two field goals (both 3-pointers by Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, respectively) that proved the immediate answer to when MSU took a 58-56 lead with 5:34 to play. Get a stop on one of those plays and the result might be different. Then again, if Harris hadn't of forced 1.5 turnovers and been a defensive pest earlier the game might not have been as close.