Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/23/12

This what #9 Michigan State has given up in scoring in their four losses: 67 to North Carolina, 74 to Duke, 81 to Northwestern, 6o to Michigan.

In their 16 wins, they’ve held everyone under 70 with the exception of Lehigh; a game they won 90-81. The losses to the Wolverines and Tar Heels were much more on the offense than the D, but the pattern is still obvious: when the Spartans play defense like a traditional Tom Izzo team is known to do, they are elite.

They look like an Elite Eight, Final Four team. But when they have those occasional defensive lapses, which have been few and far between, they look like an ordinary team.

Purdue was victorious in their last two trips to East Lansing so to get blown out 83-58 yesterday was surprising. And you could say the Spartans’ defense was the best it’s been all year in that game. They harassed Boilers star Robbie Hummel into having his worst game of his college basketball career (0-11 from the the floor, 0-6 from 3) and Purdue suffered the worst loss of Hummel’s career.

Of course, the Spartans had a helping hand in shutting down a player as celebrated as Hummel: weather, followed by vehicle delays forced the Boilers to really be sleep deprived.

But this win was built on lessons learned in MSU’s very humbling loss at Northwestern.

“We didn’t lose that game on the offensive end, we lost it on the defensive end, we’re not allowed to give up 81 points, it’s ridiculous,” Tom Izzo said after the defeat. And he talked about making sure the loss stung enough so his young players learned from their mistakes.

“I wanted them to remember why we didn’t win this game. I wanted it to be fresh in their minds while we’re on the court. The freshmen I wanted them to know that this is not accpetable and Brandon Wood to understand that you came here to try and get in the tournament cause you didn’t think you could do that, part of the reason is you didn’t help Valpo do that, you have got to man up in the big games,” MSU Coach Tom Izzo said.

“And I wanted them all to know that we have t be more consistent if we’re going to win game sn the road when the margin for error is very slim, no matter if we were 4-0 or 6-0 or 8-0,” he continued.

What did MSU in in the Northwestern game was the Princeton Offense and all it’s back door cuts. Other people in the league don’t really run Bill Carmody’s system so I wouldn’t expect too many future MSU opponents to duplicate it. Still it’s a red flag in their defense.

Freshman guard Obie Trice on the Princeton offense:

‘coming in i thought we were really prepared, we did a good job against it in practice, but tonight we kind of fell apart.”

It was mostly the freshmen and Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood who got beat on the back door cuts. The veterans knew how to stop from getting back-doored. Sophomore guard Keith Appling talked about the anxiety of getting back-doored.

“In the back of our minds, the whole time guys were kind of worried about getting back-doored. So we just wanted to stay as solid as we possibly could, sometimes it works sometimes it didn’t,” he said.

So what’s the key to not getting beat on the back-side cuts that often lead to easy lay-ups?

“You can never relax, because at any given point in any given game, someone can cut back, and you just gotta be in a defensive stance and always ready to snap your neck,” Appling responded.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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