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.

MSU's Alvin Ellis scored 12 points on just four FGAs, including a couple key baskets late to keep MSU within reach during desperation time.

However, you've seen all the offensive stats. We're here to talk about defense. Here's the defensive score sheet from the game:





Takeaways

  • As always a team needs its role guys to step up in big games. The Spartans got great defensive efforts from Gavin Schilling, Russell Byrd, and Matt Costello. Neither Schilling or Byrd allowed a field goal (Byrd was responsible for two DFTMs), combining for 7.5 misses. What stuck out about Byrd was he locked down Glenn Robinson III on the few possessions they were matched up and he forced Nik Stauskas into his only missed 3-pointer and some other off-target jumpers.
  • Kenny Kaminski absolutely had a night to forget. Not only was his offensive contribution on offense zilch but he was horrific defensively. He had a game-worst 139.3 DRtg and was brutalized by whoever he guarded (2 DFGMs vs GRIII, 1.5 DFGMs vs Stauskas, 1 DFGM vs Walton and 0.5 DFGM vs Caris LeVert). Some of it might have been bad luck but it wasn't as if KK was always in his man's face (see going UNDER a screen set for Stauskas which resulted in a - surprise! - swished 3-pointer. Now, Izzo actually said Kaminski was okay defensively at his Monday presser, especially on GRIII, but the numbers don't lie; Michigan made 22 field goals and Kaminski was responsible for five of them (22.7%).
  • After the game Tom Izzo said if Gary Harris wasn't the Big Ten Player of the Year front runner because of his sensational two-way play he would love to meet the player who is. Harris allowed three of Satuskas' hoops - most made despite great, in-your-face defense by Harris. What made it a special effort was not only 3.5 forced misses  but three turnovers that turned into great transition opportunities for the Spartans. Throw in 38 minutes played, the final five likely on gassed legs and its that much more spectacular. 
  • While I do believe this Michigan team can make it back to the Final Four there could be one big problem: Nik Stauskas' defense. He's been bad in three games against MSU - which doesn't tell an entire career story - but does prove a point: Against great teams he has to use his offense to offset his defensive shortcomings. Stauskas was responsible for seven of MSU's 26 made field goals - all of his DFGMs coming in the second half. Heck, Alvin Ellis was 4-for-4 on field goals. His defender each and every time? Stauskas. The Canadian sharp shooter was victimized once each by Harris, Keith Appling and Denzel Valentine. [To add to my Michigan Final Four comment: I don't necessarily think this year's team is better than the 2012-13 version that lost in the title game but I do think last year's team was overrated and this one is underrated. Remember, last year's group was a Trey Burke 30-foot prayer from going home in the Sweet 16 as the bracket would have projected. Mitch McGary has great potential but I've yet to see a better stretch from McGary than the one he had in the NCAAs last season. That performance made him look like a NBA lottery pick when his overall body of work says early second rounder. Losing him doesn't feel like the huge loss people will want to make it out to be and it's almost overshadowed by the surprising and unexpected improvement from Michigan's sophomores (Stauskas and LeVert). So, with that in mind, I think this team is more balanced and has all the pieces of a Final Four team. I think a little better defense from its stars would be better though.]
  • Caris LeVert had the tough assignment of guarding Harris for much of the first half. Harris, who made six first-half field goals made three against LeVert and three others that were credited to Michigan as a team (off turnovers, fast breaks, etc.) LeVert was also responsible for 1.5 Harris makes in the second half. Still, despite his eight defensive rebounds being the main factor his DRtg wasn't penalized as much he really did a tremendous job all night. Most of Harris' makes were undefendable and LeVert made it difficult for anyone else to get many scoring opportunities. Most importantly, how many touches did Harris have in the final two minutes? A quick think back has the count at one - the 3-pointer that made it 77-73 late. If Harris had touched the ball more late maybe it's a different outcome. A lot of that credit has to go to LeVert's ball denial.

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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.

[NOTE: Deuce2Sports' defensive charting has been noted on Sports Illustrated's Web site twice this season by college basketball writer Luke Winn.]

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