I’m Good With That January 31, 2013
I think this will be my shortest ever postgame post. I’m not really sure what to say. When your opponent shoots 88% in the second half, and shoots 32 free throws in the second half, and goes the last 11 minutes of the game with only two empty possessions (the over and back call, plus, technically, the Abrams strip under our basket after Dawson rebounded the ball was a “possession” for MSU), well, you’re just not going to win. We got Harold Jensen’d. Every time they crossed half court (except one time), they scored. Not much we can do at that point (besides, you know, play better defense and stop fouling).
So now that’s two consecutive games where we’ve looked better – looked more like the team we saw in December – and two consecutive losses. Michigan is just really good – best team in the country and whatnot – and Michigan State completed what was nearly a perfect half of basketball. It’s funny – they made 14 of 16 second half shots, and they got the rebound on both misses. So we played an entire half of basketball without a single defensive rebound. Is that a first for us?
Wait, is that maybe the first time that’s ever happened in college basketball? There are very few 88% halves. You have to limit your shots – nobody is going to make 29 of 32 – so you’d have to have the officials call, like, 16 fouls in the half or something. And then you’d have to make nearly every shot. And rebound every miss. Yeah, this has to be the first time it’s happened.
I’ve seen a lot of comments saying that the first five minutes of the second half (and MSU’s 14-0 run) was the difference in the game. I just can’t look at it that way. Their shooting + the large number of free throws is all I can see. It wasn’t a five minute run from Michigan State. It was a 20 minute run. We just happened to score at a ridiculous pace for the last 15 minutes and somehow keep up with them.
And because of that, I’m good tonight. Not really upset. The Purdue loss still sticks with me (especially after they lost at home to Indiana by 37 points – at home, in the one game they get up for every year, by THIRTY SEVEN POINTS). The Northwestern loss really sticks with me (how can that happen?). Michigan on Sunday and Michigan State tonight? What can you say? Best team in college basketball, and then best half of basketball I’ve seen in a long time.
If Michigan State shoots 65% in the second half and only gets to the line 20 times, we’re probably talking about The Myke Henry Game. Not just scoring – his defense was impressive. My one white-hot anger moment at the officials centered around Henry’s reach-around deflection in the second half that was called a foul. He showed a little Roger Powell tonight – undersized four chases down rebounds and hits threes and plays solid defense against bigger guys – and that will be much needed in the next two seasons.
In fact, we saw a lot of good from next year’s team tonight. Our best second-half run came with only one senior on the floor. Abrams-Richardson-Bertrand-Henry-Egwu, while foul happy on the defensive end, made a solid run after Michigan State pushed the lead to six or eight. Take that lineup, replace DJ with Rayvonte Rice, bring in the freshmen off the bench, and there’s your 2013/14 Illini.
Overall, it felt like the surprise win to get us back on track towards a tourney berth slipped away tonight. A win in this game would have erased that awful Northwestern loss, and then we’d just be looking through the schedule for something to replace the Purdue loss. Now, we pretty much have to win two of the next three (Wisconsin, Indiana, at Minnesota) or we’re officially dunzo.
Which, before the season, was about what we expected. But after Butler and Gonzaga and Ohio State, we all had high in the sky apple pie hopes. A #10 ranking and big-time recruits tweeting about our new, fun style of play.
And now we’re right back where we started. Yeah, maybe I’m not so good with that.