Michigan State’s 87-75 home-court loss to Duke last night demonstrated two major principles of basketball:
1. Turnovers will hurt you.
2. Opponent’s points scored off of turnovers will kill you.
With 10:58 to go in the first half, Duke began a run that would take the score from 18-14 to 29-18 in less than five minutes. At this point, ESPN flashed the most important stat of the night:
Points Off of Turnovers: Duke 12-Michigan State 2.
Also at this point, the game was pretty much a settled affair.
But . . . If these points were erased, the score would have been 17-16. And, hypothetically, the final score would have been 75-73, meaning we would have seen a wild one-possession-to-win-it finish.
Of course, this did not happen.
What this proves is that Michigan State is good enough to hang with a high-octane squad such as Duke; however, some things need to change before the they can beat an elite team.
First, the Spartans turnovers were made worse by their defensive woes. They show flashes of brilliance, but when a team has multiple scoring threats (Duke, Virginia Tech, and Kentucky, for example) the Michigan State has not found a way to slow them down.
Second, they need to find a dependable source of points in addition to Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. This means that Aaron Henry needs to step up and score 15 points per game and Rock Watts needs to develop into a 10-points-per-game guy.
These two players can greatly improve the team’s prospects.
Third, the Spartans should not be losing because they get out hustled. This happened last night. Many of Duke’s scoring opportunities came on steals and blocked shots from behind. Michigan State’s too-frequent lack of court awareness and a tendency to pause in their half-court offense gave the Blue Devils ample opportunity to create havoc and pile up points in transition.
The loss to Duke was brutal, no matter how you cut it. On offense, Michigan State was sloppy with the ball. Also, at times, they looked like they were waiting for something to happen that never quite did. Couple this with their problems on defense, and you have a mess.
With this being said, it isn’t time to sell the Spartans. Tom Izzo is a master at developing talent and knows how to play the long game. However, he has his work cut out for him this season.