Monday, November 29, 2021

What changed: How MSU men's hoops glued the pieces together from Thursday's loss

March 7, 2021
<p>Sophomore guard Rocket Watts (2) shoots a floater during the Spartans&#x27; 70-64 upset on the No. 2 Wolverines on March 7, 2021. Watts led all players in scoring with 21 points.</p>

Sophomore guard Rocket Watts (2) shoots a floater during the Spartans' 70-64 upset on the No. 2 Wolverines on March 7, 2021. Watts led all players in scoring with 21 points.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

In just three days, things changed from a sore, angry and nail-biting loss to couches burning, "Go Green, Go White" chants and street riots breaking out in Cedar Village.

The Michigan State men's basketball team had rebounded from their 19-point deficit Thursday night to dethrone their in-state rivals, the Big Ten Champions, No. 2 Michigan on Sunday evening in a 70-64 victory.

What was the difference?

Players came out of hiding

Everyone knows Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford, the pair of veterans that often are a calming voice for an inexperienced team.

But Rocket Watts was the biggest surprise of the game. The sophomore scored 21 points on an efficient 16 shots with an array of jumpers, floaters and layups.

Henry and Langford combined for 20 points on Thursday and 25 points on Sunday. It was a stronger showing, specifically for Henry, who shot 6-of-13 from the floor.

The first four points scored by Hauser, which were around the 14-minute mark of the first half, were off assists from Watts.

Head coach Tom Izzo said that Watts' mother had driven up to watch him play for the first time in his collegiate career, which drove Watts to tears.

Hauser went on to end the night with a total of 11 points, going 5-for-7 from the field. Izzo said he hopes to get more consistency from him as they head into postseason action. MSU shot 4-of-11 from 3-point land and surprisingly, forward Thomas Kithier didn't check in to the game at all.

Their winning formula

The fewer turnovers and fouls, the better. That rings true since their first game against Indiana in Bloomington on Feb. 20.

We've seen patterns between the less turnovers resulting in higher scoring, more turnovers resulting in lower or stagnant scoring.

Over the last three games, the Spartans have collected 29 turnovers and 55 fouls. This is a huge change from last Sunday's roundup.

For a better understanding, let's take a deeper look:

In a rematch against Indiana, MSU had nine turnovers. In that game, the scores remained close, fluctuating until the final three minutes. Edging close to 10 turnovers or more really thins things out.

Against Michigan, the first time, MSU had 12 turnovers. The score spoke for itself. Against Michigan, Sunday evening, MSU had eight turnovers. In this game, well, we all know what happened. It's up to them to continue this streak as they head down to Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 9 seed. Solid defense and fewer mistakes are what win you big games against more talented teams.

Adjustments to the scouting report, the game plan

Izzo said post-game:

"As dumb as it sounds, it was more offensively. I thought we were more in an attack mode offensively. We had to do a better job with exploiting their ball screens. I thought we went at them."

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"Defensively, they're really good. They've got so many guys that can shoot it and then if you start extending on that, there's a 7-foot-1 guy in there."

"I thought we found a happy medium. We got some help. But, I mean, you know what, one game you make some shots and one game you miss some shots. I thought we were pretty solid defensively, but I thought we were better offensively. At their place, we were terrible offensively and part of that was because they were so good defensively."

Those quotes are exactly what a coach that needed to make adjustments would say. Izzo made the necessary ones and it paid off, specifically on the defensive side of the floor.

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