Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan State at Iowa

Russell Byrd hits the shot of his life against Iowa. (The Gazette)
In a game practically everyone assumed Michigan State would lose, including some of the biggest MSU fans around, the Spartans eked out one of the grittiest wins of the Tom Izzo era.

The biggest highlight is 11th-man Russell Byrd's 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in OT that gave MSU a 70-64 and kind of sealed the win. (It would have sealed the win had the Spartans not missed three of four free throws in the final 17 seconds). Byrd's shot - the biggest of his often-injured MSU career - was reminiscent of bench workhorse Tim Bograkos' 3-pointer with less than a minute left that lifted MSU to a 71-67 win over Kentucky in 2002 at Rupp Arena. [VIDEO shows the clip starting at the nine-second mark].

The Byrd story is pretty simple: He was recruited by the likes of Kentucky because he was a phenomenal high school shooter. Multiple foot surgeries have derailed his career as much as his inability to hit open triples that he's said to be making consistently in practice and shootarounds. He went from a potential key bench guy for Tom Izzo to an 9th-man-in-the-rotation guy to a de facto practice squad leader. MSU's recent injuries and Byrd's improved defense are really the only reason he's been able to get on the floor lately. He then finally hits the shot he was recruited to hit night after night.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan at Michigan State

Derrick Walton Jr.' s huge play was one reason Michigan left
Breslin Center with an 80-75 win over No. 3 Michigan St. (AP)

In a 64-possession game it was clear that while both MSU & Michigan's defenses were solid to a point the offenses stole the show - especially Michigan's in the closing four minutes.

Michigan's 80-75 win at The Breslin Center - just the Wolverines' 2nd win in East Lansing in their last 15 games - was truly a classic in the rivalry. Clutch play by both teams' stars, especially Nik Stauskas & Gary Harris, made it a back and forth tug of war.  Despite both teams playing without their NBA-ready centers (Mitch McGary for Michigan and Adreian Payne for MSU) the reserves stepped up and both teams had unsung performances from usually low-key guys.

Derrick Walton Jr. had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Wolverines but his biggest plays were his And-1 layup that gave Michigan a 66-60 lead with 2:25 to play, and going 7-for-8 from the free throw line in the final two minutes.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Iowa at Michigan

There were a lot of heroes vs. Iowa but U-M's Spike
Albrecht was the biggest for the Wolverines. (AP)

Today's post will be short and sweet. Michigan didn't play its best game - outside of Nik Stauskas having some phenomenal one-on-one efforts the offense wasn't great in the half court - but timely turnovers and fast-break points were really the difference against a top-10 Iowa team.

There were a few heroes for Michigan but none greater than Spike Albrecht. Starting (and playing starter's minutes) for the ill Derrick Walton Jr. Albrecht was Michigan's best defender by far and some could argue his timely forced turnovers changed the game and gave the Wolverines the victory potion.

Below is the defensive score sheet for the Michigan's 75-67 victory against Iowa - giving the Wolverines back-to-back wins over Top-10 teams for the first time since the Fab Five in 1992.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan at Wisconsin

Bo Ryan fell to 191-19 (.910) in his tenure at the Kohl Center (AP).
It goes without saying just how tough it is to beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Michigan became just the 19th visiting team to leave Kohl Center with a victory... in 210 attempts! Bo Ryan is still 191-19 at the Kohl Center as Wisconsin's head coach.

Now, sometimes the bounces (and whistles) just go your way at home. Other times a change in basketball can be difficult for opponents to adjust to. (Wisconsin is the lone Division I team to use Sperling basketballs - a brand Bo Ryan used when he was coaching Division III hoops and just brought with him to Madison). Lest we forget, however, that Wisconsin will always be a good-to-great team under Bo Ryan because of his coaching ability. Throw in the Grateful Red student section and a rabid fan base and you have a very hostile environment.

It makes what Michigan did on Saturday that much more impressive. While the final score and late-game tension doesn't quite show it, Michigan really had the game in hand for much of the day. The lead swelled to 66-53 with eight minutes to play. Naturally, as Wisconsin seemingly always does at home, the Badgers made a run. Wisconsin went on a 14-2 spurt to make it a one-point game with two minutes to play.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Look Back: Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan at Duke

Defensively, it was a very rough day for U-M's Caris LeVert (AP).

Looking back, this seems like a typical Duke home game this season. The Blue Devils make enough threes and play good enough defense to get the win against a good-but-not-great opponent. It also helped that Michigan didn't play nearly to its capabilities.

The game had a moderate pace (67 possessions) but that shows you exactly where Michigan failed. Duke was able to get way too many good looks, especially from three-point range. The positive: Michigan played like a team for 40 minutes; The negative: every person on the team was responsible for a plethora of defensive lapses.

Caris LeVert, who some call "Baby Durant" or variations of it, didn't have a Durantian game on either side of the ball. His 15 points on 15 shots is hardly impressive and defensively he was terrible. He allowed a game-high 8.5 made baskets and was beaten off the dribble repeatedly. He looked especially bad when Jordan Morgan (worst DRtg for the game at 135.5) was in the post instead of Jon Horford or Mitch McGary (Michigan's best two defenders).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Look Back: Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan State vs. North Carolina

Tom Izzo looked like this much of the evening vs. UNC and
his anger was usually directed at his team's lack of execution.

In what has turned out to be one of the more puzzling losses of the season, the Spartans were out-hustled, out-willed, and out-worked for 40 minutes by the Tar Heels. The result was a 79-65 North Carolina victory in which Michigan State never led.

Yes, the Spartans were playing with a gimpy Gary Harris (ankle) and a sick Matt Costello (flu) and ended up having to work around Adreian Payne's in-game cramping. Still, for a MSU team that's 15-1 with some damn impressive wins to date the entire complexion of this game was just weird.

North Carolina grabbed 16 offensive rebounds while the Spartans hauled in just 25 defensive boards; that's a offensive rebounding percentage of 39 percent. Against a Tom Izzo team that might as well be the equivalent of losing 100-50, at home, to a MEAC school.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State vs. Ohio State

This was the Tom Izzo death stare aimed at officials and his
team's offense in the final 7+ minutes of regulation Tuesday.

For 32+ minutes of regulation the short-handed Spartans played like national champions, albeit at home, against the undefeated Buckeyes. MSU led 55-38 with 7:06 to play before, inexplicably, going into run-down-the-shot-clock-and-take-the-foot-off-the-gas mode. For a team that had smelled blood when the game was in the 6-8 point range to push the lead to 17 it was puzzling to see it become so passive.

That's when the Buckeyes became the sharks. Over the final 7+ minutes of regulation Ohio State outscored Michigan State 20-3 by forcing nine turnovers with a ferocious defensive attack that led to a handful of easy buckets. Heck, the final turnover - a deflection and steal by Shannon Scott - almost sunk the Spartans in the final seconds of regulation if not for a phenomenal defensive play by Keith Appling.

In overtime the Spartans crawled out of their shell a bit and, when the traditional, attacking style of offense the Spartans used for the first 32+ minutes - SURPRISE! - worked MSU was able to hold off the Buckeyes in a 72-68 overtime classic.

Here's the defensive score sheet for the game with a brief explanation at the bottom of this post: