Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 89-67 win over Long Island-Brooklyn

(Box score here)

No upset here.

On a day when two No. 15 seeds and a No. 13 seed won, No. 1 seed MSU made sure it didn't make any history, cruising to an 89-67 win over No. 16 seed Long Island-Brooklyn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Draymond Green (24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) turned in the third triple-double of his career and his second straight in the NCAA Tournament. MSU advances to the third round, where the Spartans will face Saint Louis, the No. 9 seed that defeated Memphis earlier Friday night.

( highlights)

Early on, the Spartans got whatever they wanted on offense, but had some trouble on defense. MSU led by 10 late in the first half, but LIU closed the half on a 5-0 run to cut it to a five-point deficit at the break. LIU star forward Julian Boyd had only played nine minutes in the first while dealing with foul trouble, so the Blackbirds appeared to be in a good position. MSU had shot 52.8 percent in the first half, but LIU was right there at 50 percent, inclusing 5-for-8 from three-point range.

LIU cut MSU's lead to 46-42 with 17:58 to play, but would get no closer. MSU went on a 14-5 run to get the lead back to double-digits. The only drama for the final 10 minutes or so was whether or not Green would get that triple-double. With him staying in the game late, it was clear MSU was looking for him to get it. When Brandon Wood hit a jumper with 2:04 to go to give Green his 10th assist. According to BTN's stats guy, Green joined Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players with multiple triple-doubles in the NCAA Tournament.

The story of this game was MSU's bodies inside. LIU didn't have a player taller than 6-foot-7 on its roster, so rebounds were going to be had. MSU finished with a 43-20 total rebounding edge. The Spartans had 15 offensive rebounds to just 16 defensive for LIU. Adriean Payne had four offensive rebounds, seven total, and tied a career-high with 16 points. The other center, Derrick Nix, had a career-high 18 points to go with eight rebounds. The Spartans finished with an incredible 62 points in the paint.

Elsewhere, Keith Appling was solid with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists and played great defense on LIU guard Jason Brickman, who finished with seven assists and five turnovers. Brandon Wood had seven points, and Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice and Austin Thornton also chipped in with some points. But this game was all about the big fellas inside. MSU finished the game shooting 40-for-68 (58.8 percent), while LIU finished at 44 percent.

Some people said before the game that the Spartans wouldn't be able to run with LIU. MSU showed that it can speed a game up or slow it down, which has been one of the biggest keys for Izzo's teams.

I do think a No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 at some points. Just look at how close UNC-Asheville was. LIU coach Jim Ferry said in the postgame presser that he thought his team should have been a No. 15 seed. He also said he thought there was a clear gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, so his team got a bad draw. Given that two No. 2s went down today, who's to say he's wrong?

As mentioned before, MSU will face No. 9 seed Saint Louis at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday. The Billikens beat Memphis 61-54, playing a slower game that should bode well for MSU. But don't forget about Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus, who will have his team ready to play. I'll preview that game later.

The Big Ten went 5-1 in the first round, with Purdue upsetting Saint Mary's and Michigan falling to Ohio. Overall, the conference looked very solid in the first round.

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