November 12, 2010

Spartans somewhat sloppy, but win by 30

EAST LANSING - Michigan State scored 96 points, won by 30, and it still felt a little too sloppy for the head coach. But Tom Izzo isn't blaming anybody but himself for a 20-turnover performance and some missed assignments on defense during the Spartans' 96-66 victory over Eastern Michigan in the season opener.

"How do we score 96 points when we didn't really play real well and made numerous turnovers?" Izzo asked rhetorically after the game.

The answer: Six Spartans scored in double figures. Each of those six players shot 50 percent or better from the field.
Among them:

  • Durrell Summers scored 17, while going 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

  • Kalin Lucas scored a team-high 18, while dishing out six assists against two turnovers.

  • Draymond Green scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting and contributed some of the best passing of his career, with seven assists.

  • Austin Thornton delivered 10 points, knocking down three spot-up field goals when defenses sagged.

  • Keith Appling had 14 points, including a 3-pointer from the corner (from Green on inside-out action) and 7-of-7 from the foul line. But Appling had five turnovers, some of them coming during his first minutes of his college career at point guard.

    Eastern Michigan challenged Michigan State with pressure man-to-man defense in the halfcourt, getting out hard on the man with the ball and denying passing lanes. Michigan State capitalized at times with driving action off of ball screens, but the November version of the Spartan offense isn't nearly what it will be in future weeks.

    "We don't have enough stuff in against the pressure they played," Izzo said in reference to the Spartans' early-season playbook. "I have to take more blame for that than the players."

    With Korie Lucious serving the second of a two-game suspension due to his September reckless driving charge, and Mike Kebler out with a foot injury, Appling had to serve as the Lucas's back up point guard.

    "When they came with some pressure, we didn't handle it well and it put a little more pressure on Keith," Izzo said. "Considering he has played only one or two days of point guard since he has been here, he did a marvelous job."

    Lucas continues to make excellent progress in coming back from the Achilles tendon rupture he sustained last March. He doesn't have all of his speed and quickness back, but a 90-percent health Lucas is probably better than 95 percent of the point guards in America.

    "In general, I thought there were some bright spots for every guy who played, and that doesn't happen very often," Izzo said. "But we still have a long way to go, a tone of work and not very long to go."

    The No. 2-ranked Spartans will play host to South Carolina at 10 p.m. on Tuesday in the finale of the ESPN's 24 Hours of College Basketball showcase. Then the Spartans will head to Maui Invitational for Thanksgiving weekend and potential games against Connecticut and Kentucky.

    "I don't feel comfortable with where we are, for where we have to be," Izzo said. "I still like the pieces. It's just a matter of putting the puzzle together."

    What About Bowdry's 32?

    Eastern Michigan's quick, 6-foot-6 power forward Brandon Bowdry had a career-high 32 points and matched a personal best with 15 rebounds for the Eagles. Bowdry was 10-of-28 from the floor and 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

    Michigan State rotated Green, Delvon Roe and Adreian Payne onto Bowdry, defensively, with mixed results.

    "Poor job by me," Izzo said. "Usually we give a guy like that the six-eye treatment."

    Six-eye treatment being a system of help defense.

    "He just drove and drove," Izzo said. "He hit a couple of 3s when Delvon didn't respect it. He played good but he took 28 shots to get those points. If we can get guys to take 28 shots and make 10 of them, I think we win.

    "I think Delvon and Draymond can handle a guy like that. He (Bowdry) played like a three because he shot some threes. Part of it was lack of preparation. I don't mean it in a negative way for me and my staff, there are just so many things we are trying to get in, with new guys at different positions."

    The Shermanator

    Sophomore Garrick Sherman got his 13th career start at center, and for the second straight game delivered some early scoring on the offensive glass. He finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds in 15 minutes.

    Derrick Nix, who started 16 games last year and every game in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, had 2 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes.

    "Right now, those guys are by committee," Izzo said. "Nix and Sherman are roommates. I don't know what I would call them: Mutt and Jeff, or Frick and Frack. The odd couple. They are two guys that are kind of growing together. They pull for each other.

    "Nixer started off slow and finished pretty well. Sherman started off pretty good and didn't finish as good.

    The Wrap

    Michigan State put the game out of reach early.

    Lucas made a driving layup to put the Spartans ahead 19-8 and they led by as much as 22 in the first half that ended with them ahead 49-33.

    They built and maintained a 20-plus point cushion for much of the second half, experimenting with a nine-man rotation that created mismatches all over the court.

    Eastern Michigan, coming off its best season in a dozen years (17-15 in 2010), needed a few more players like Bowdry to compete with a team tough to beat anywhere - especially at the Breslin Center.

    "I think that's a pretty good team that will do well in their league," Izzo said.
    The Spartans have won 48 straight games against nonconference opponents in East Lansing, dating to a 2003 loss to Duke, and is 39-0 in November at home under Izzo.

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