Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Falcons Fall Short to Spartans

In the post-game presser, Coach Izzo said that "behind closed doors he has been scared to death about this game."

He was in the house 22 years ago when BG took down the Spartans, and knows what can happen on the road.

It didn't happen last night, as the Spartans were able to eventually wear down the Falcons and win by 11 points in what was, overall, a very entertaining basketball game.

I give the Falcons a lot of credit.  They played with MSU for 31 minutes and it was an effort we can all be proud of, especially on the defensive end of the floor.  The Falcons went toe to toe with a very athletic, big and well coached team for most of the game (yes, it was at home) and certainly as a fan I am proud of the effort.

I remarked on the way out (and then heard Kirk Cowan say it on the radio) that the shame of it is that we bring this kind of energy and ability when we play Michigan State but not when we play Youngstown State.  Because we would have beaten Youngstown State if we had.

I do get it.  It was a sell out at the Stroh--and let there be no doubt, if and when this men's basketball program gets rolling again, the Stroh can roar--and it was an electric environment.  Lots of State fans, too, and a great student turn out even though school is on break now.  So, you get swept up and you play well.

Just means (and this is the point Cowan made) that you have the ability, so whether it comes out against Youngstown State is up to you.

The first half of the game was very closely played and MSU needed a buzzer beater to take a 5 point lead into the locker room.  The second was also very tightly contested, with MSU pushing out to modest leads and then BG battling back.  The game was tied at 40 and at 45.

Cue the foreboding music, because from there on in the Spartans dominated the Falcons, outscoring BG 19-8 coming home and taking the 11 point win.  Even within those 19, at one point, down 10, BG got 3 straight stops and had the chance to get the game back within reach but could not score.

The Falcons were hampered in the final minutes by the absence of their leading scorer, Chauncey Orr (more later), who had cramped up and could not play.  Also, BG played in the final minutes with Jordon Crawford on the bench.  I don't know if he was injured or if he was pulled, but Jehvon Clarke led the team in the final minutes.

What I do know is this...on the post-game show, Coach Stone said that BG had executed its game plan very effectively until the final minutes of the game and then got away from the offensive game plan.  Again, I don't know if that is connected with Crawford or not.

What I saw was a few bad shots in there...a very long, badly missed 3 by Kraus, a couple of weak drives by Kraus and Clarke (you can't drive to the basket with a scoop move against those guys, they just smack it away)...regardless, 8 points in 10 minutes is nothing to be proud of.  Furthermore, 6 of the 8 points were on free throws and the only FG in that span came with :29 left in the game.

Individually, the Falcon who had the most impressive game was Chauncey Orr who had 16 points in 20 minutes played....shooting 6 of 7 and making 3 threes.  He was strong around the rim as well, and it was far and away his best performance as a Falcon.  I know it was just one game, but if even one outside player emerges as a scorer, the dynamic changes for this team a lot.

Crawford did score 10 but on 4 of 14 shooting with 7 assists and 2 turnovers.  The assists are good but the shooting was a real struggle.  You had to expect Calhoun to have a tough night...some of the MSU guys are human aircraft carriers and they don't even need to double Calhoun.  He had 9 points on 3 of 10 shooting and a team high 5 rebounds.

I thought out big guys played really well.  Holmes had 4 rebounds and 4 blocks in 20 minutes and Black closed the lane down a number of times and bodied up the MSU bigs...yes, they got some baskets inside, that's what they do, but I thought Calhoun and Holmes had solid games.

I also thought they got a very solid 17 minutes out of James Erger.  If we had a weak point, our guard play was pretty poor up and down the line, except for Orr.

Statistically, BG actually won 3 of the 4 key factors.  They did a great job on the boards against one of the country's perennial rebounding powers, had fewer turnovers and got to the free throw line more often.

The deciding factor in the game was shooting.  MSU shot 48% and BG shot 32%.  MSU was only 3 of 9 from 3, so that was OK, but BG was 5 of 19.  I'm guessing that the difficulty of getting the ball inside spawned a lot of those 3s, but I doubt if BG wins too many games this year with 19 3-attempts.

I don't know...maybe that contradicts my observation that the inside guys played well.  MSU pounds the ball inside, they are going to get shots.

Anyway, for the game MSU had 1 point a possession (which is an above average night for a defense) and BG got .85, which is obviously less and not good enough to win.

Full credit to MSU and Izzo for taking his team on the road into a difficult enviornment.  In the post-game presser he said he was "just dumb" and might keep doing it, but obviously it is not that.  Good teams win on the road, and this was a good chance for his guys to get acclimated to it before they head into Big 10 play.

For comparison, OSU has played one road game (at Duke, FWIW) and Michigan has played @Bradley.

Anyway, thanks to the Spartans for playing here, because I don't think any other Big 10 team would have done it.

For the Falcons, the question is whether anything moves forward from this.  Does this boost confidence and create a team that can compete in the MAC, or was it a sugar high?

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