Saturday, MSU will be playing its biggest football game in years. Therefore, it was fitting that the hoops team would be locked in a physical battle with a score that could be mistaken for a Big 12 football game on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t always pretty, but MSU gritted out a victory over a quality Florida State team 65-49. Keith Appling was killer down the stretch, and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. He put away the game when he lost both defenders on a pick and roll and hit a dagger three with a few minutes left in the game. “We wanted to go with our horse, and Keith was the horse tonight that he should be,” Coach Tom Izzo said after the game.
State only won the rebound battle by one, but it was extremely encouraging to see the guards chip in on the glass. Brandon Wood had a great game, grabbing 10 boards to add to his 16 points.
“We talk about it everyday when we do the war drill, getting back to how it was in ’99 and 2001. Keith Appling and Brandon Wood combined for 17 rebounds, that is like the Richardson and Bell era. It was big for us, the bigs were banging with those long athletic guys, and they just came in and swiped them up,” Draymond Green told Isportsweb after the game.
REVISITING THE KEYS
1. Get out in transition
I’ll let Larry David handle this one. Keith Appling is absolutely deadly when he gets a head of steam. He is fast, but manages to be in complete control of his body and the ball. He will go end-to-end a few times a game, and it is stunning.
FSU is a lanky team who is tough on the glass. As I alluded to earlier, the guards had to come down low and help out the big guys on the boards, which didn’t allow them to get down the floor as quickly. I thought MSU did enough in transition to give them a boost of offense that FSU couldn’t match.
2. Limit the turnovers
Another great job by the Spartans. They finished with only 12, compared to their previous average of 17 per-game. FSU tried some press later in the 2nd half, and MSU dealt with it well.
There were a few frustrating plays. MSU had a five-second call against them, and Keith Appling got tied up when he was trying to direct the offense and was too casual with the ball. With such a young team, these things are going to happen. 12 is a managable number against a team like FSU, especially when you force 18 of them.
3. Big guys and Dawson need to stay out of foul trouble
To quote the fight song, “A victory for MSU”. State only committed 11 personal fouls ALL GAME, and never put their other team in the bonus. Travis Trice was the only guy with more than two fouls in the game. Tom Izzo was able to play his rotation as he pleased. He said he was going to cut down the playing group, and he did; only seven guys got more than eight minutes: Green, Payne, Nix, Wood, Appling, Branden Dawson, and Trice. Austin Thornton left the game with an injury; you can expect him to be in that rotation when he is healthy.
I said Dawson would be key because of his height and athleticism. Well, I was wrong about that one. He played a brutal game and State still got away with it. Tom Izzo only played him 19 minutes in a match-up that is tailor-made for him; that speaks volumes. Dawson had a bad night on the defensive end, getting beat one-on-one multiple times and struggling to get through screens all night. He didn’t contribute on offense either, with two points and two turnovers. Also, zero rebounds for Mr. Dawson. It was a bad game, but I like his physical attributes, his attitude, and his work ethic. He’ll be fine in due time; I just hope that ‘due time’ is Big 10 season and not next year.
It was great to see the guards assert themselves in this game. Izzo has been talking to Brandon Wood about being more aggressive and gritty. His message seemed to get through. Keith’s confidence is growing by the game, and is evolving into be an All-Big 10 type performer.
At the same time, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne combined for four points, three rebounds, and three turnovers in 40 minutes. State needs more than that from those guys. This was a tough match-up for them, but those two need to put together more consistent showings.
“The upside is that I don’t think we have a ceiling right now, there are so many guys that aren’t playing well.” That is what Tom Izzo said after the game. I tend to agree with him. If this team, especially the young guys, can play to their potential consistently, this is a dangerous team.
It is a bit of a sidebar, but Draymond Green told isportsweb a cool story after the game. He said his phone rang around noon on Wednesday, and a special person was on the other line.
“I talked to Magic Johnson earlier, and he said ‘get back to what you do.’ I was struggling with a lot, having a bigger role, having to do so many things. Not saying that I am Magic Johnson, but he is another guy who had so many obligations. He just called me out of the blue and said ‘youre not smiling like you used to, youre not getting the crowd into it like you used to, youre not playing with the type of energy.’ He told me to ‘do what you do best, and all of the other things will come back.’ It meant a lot to me to get a call from him, one of the greatest players to ever play this game. He just let me know to get back to being the Draymond Green that everybody knows.”
Draymond has really struggled shooting the ball this year, but I can’t bring myself to write a bad word about him because I love his leadership and attitude so much.
The fact of the matter is, Draymond Green is a perfect role player. He will rebound his tush off, he plays hard, is versatile, and is a great passer for a bigger guy. This year, so much has been asked of him, and he is trying to do too many things. He takes a few shots a game that I could live without. If he can get back to focusing on his passing and intangibles, while Appling shoulders the offensive load more, it would be beneficial for the Spartans.
All things considered, this was a very good win for MSU. The Seminoles were a different challenge for State, because of their defensive ability and athletecism. FSU will finish with 20+ wins, so this win carry some weight around tournament time.
You can follow me on twitter @steve_miller04
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