Michigan State 54, Michigan 42
Yes, I will be gushing. No, I don't feel bad about it. Anytime we can beat a rival, it feels good. Football, basketball, water polo--I don't care. The thing that's kind of cool is, in both football and basketball, the rivalries have been pretty one-sided the last few years (UM in football, MSU in basketball), but with the improvements MSU is making on the football side and John Beilein at the helm of Michigan basketball, I think that's changing. A lot of people may say that isn't a good thing, but I disagree. A rivalry is only really fun if the other team is worth beating...even if that means we may lose to Michigan sometime down the road (but I hope not!).
Anyway, on to the game. I was really happy with several things I saw out of my team tonight. 1.) Getting a road win, especially in the Big Ten, is always great. It's a lot less intimidating going into the tournament and not having that home support when you can step up and win anyway.
2.) They did really well holding the lead. Michigan made a couple of runs, took advantage of some defensive breakdowns inside and hit some shots, but every time that happened, MSU calmly came down the floor and made a play. That kind of poise is SO important--not panicking, not forcing it, not turning it over (granted they turned it over some, but for the most part did really well).
3.) Getting some wins without their lead scorer on the floor. It's no secret Raymar Morgan has been out with some mystery illness (it might be mono, it might be puemonia, it changes a lot)
and that's a huge loss for our team. However, the guys are stepping up and finding some other answers, which is great. Morgan is expected to be back next week against Purdue, but won't be up to full strength for awhile. It's good the rest of the team knows how to help him out until he gets there.
4.) DELVON ROE! Every few years, I pick my favorite player. For the past 4 years, it was Drew Neitzel. I took a lot of heat for it at times, but I stand by my choice. It was solid. At the beginning of this season, I was quite unsure who it would be, but after a couple games, I decided Roe was my guy. After tonight, I'm patting myself on the back about what a good choice that was (so far...god forbid something terrible happens). He has played really well lately and tonight was no exception. 14 points, 10 boards...but in general, his presence was everywhere. It seemed like every time MSU made a great play, Roe had something to do with it. A loose ball, offensive rebounds, defending the post, etc. In the absence of Morgan, he stepped up to give us a go-to guy in the post. This kid doesn't play like a freshman and we haven't even seen all he can do yet. I can't wait.
5.) Travis Walton. The kid isn't the biggest offensive threat, but his leadership on the defensive end is ridiculous, in an amazing way. He guards every team's best player and tonight he was all over Manny Harris, holding him to just 7 points. Woo!
*Goran Suton frustrates me to no end. For the past 3 years, the kid has been ridiculously inconsistent. Half the time, he's the best player on the floor. The other half of the time, he looked like he'd never seen a basketball before. Then this year came. He had knee surgery and came back....with solid performances every game. Amazing, right? And then there was tonight. He, again, looked like he had never seen a basketball before. He got beat on defense, got caught with his back turned, couldn't grab a rebound, couldn't hit a shot...GRRR! I hope it was just an off game and not a return to the old ways...otherwise, I say he might have to go under the knife one more time.
*The Michigan crowd amused me. It seemed that every time MSU had the ball (according to them) we either committed an offensive foul, traveled, turned it over--in general, we did something wrong every time we had the ball. I agree that there were some questionable calls, but it definitely went both ways. I wasn't always happy either, but it evened out pretty well.
*It pains me to give Michigan credit for anything (kidding) but they did play great defense. The Spartans fought through it, but they really rotated well and suffocated our team without fouling. I was getting frustrated and I didn't even play. John Beilein is a really great coach and he is going to have a lot of success there (dang it).
*Why does Manny Harris always look like he's going to cry? I've watched a few Michigan games this year and the kid just has one of those facial expressions that makes him looks constantly depressed.
*Is the fact that Greg Paulus starting at point guard tomorrow really THAT big a deal? I can see when talking about the game in a preview or in the studio or something that it would be relevant, but when saying "This game is on tomorrow...AND GREG PAULUS IS STARTING AT POINT GUARD!!!"??? I don't think it's international news.
PS--Props to Delvon Roe. No explanation needed.