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:



In arguably Michigan State's two biggest games this season (the early-season win over then-No. 1 Kentucky being the other) the Spartans have been dominated on the glass. Ohio State outrebounded the Spartans 42-28 for the game including 15 offensive rebounds (MSU had 21 defensive rebounds for comparison). Still, with timely 3-point shooting and pesky defensive of their own the Spartans overcame the rebounding issues. One wonders, however, just how long MSU can do that in big games.

Adreian Payne altered many shots Tuesday night, including
this missed layup by Aaron Craft. (Detroit Free Press)

Takeaways

  • Gary Harris is a very special player. That's always been a given offensively but defensively he's just as good. Harris forced seven of Ohio State's 21 turnovers (he technically had a role in nine turnovers - five by himself and four others where he split the credit with a teammate). 
  • Welcome to the big stage, Kenny Kaminski. While he didn't have super defensive numbers (he did hit three timely 3-pointers, including the biggest in overtime) Kaminski provided another big body for the Spartans and he wasn't a liability at all.
  • Adreian Payne wasn't supposed to play. Coach Izzo found out 45 minutes before the game that it was unlikely Payne would play. However, call it adrenaline or want-to but Payne willed himself into the game. He played 32 minutes and didn't allow a basket defensively. While many will point to Payne's two offensive rebound slam dunk putbacks as his mark on this game - and don't misunderstand me, those were monumentally awesome - his defense was more impressive. 
  • Can it be true? Aaron Craft actually played a below average defensive game? The numbers would suggest exactly that. While Craft did force four turnovers, most coming during MSU's near choke job at the end of the second half, he was beat plenty off the dribble by Keith Appling and Harris. 
  • Shannon Scott is almost as important defensively as Craft. Like his teammate, Scott is a menace with on-the-ball defense. However, if he's not forcing turnovers or deflections he surrenders plenty of points as well. Surprise, surprise but Craft and Scott were technically OSU's two worst defenders last night. 
  • I expect both Amir Williams and Trey McDonald to get a little more pub as the season goes on. While OSU doesn't exactly use both much on the offensive end the Buckeyes will have to if the Final Four is to be a realistic goal. One thing is certain in January though: both Williams and McDonald are better defensively than you think.
  • Thad Matta was extremely excited with his team's defense during the 20-3 stretch to close out the second half. Nevertheless, like his counterpart, Matta was extremely frustrated with what seemed to be inconsistent officiating that looked like a throwback to the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys days (See photo below).

Thad Matta disagrees, once again, with some of Tuesday's officiating.
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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: For the second time this season our defensive charting was noted on Sports Illustrated's Web site via college basketball writer Luke Winn. My favorite line: "...his charting suggests that ESPN's lovefest should have been for Gary Harris instead of Aaron Craft."]

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