In one of the better Big Ten hoops rivalries out there, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 19 Michigan took the court on Tuesday in a showcase game on ESPN that we felt compelled to pick apart.
As you might expect from a pair of well-coached squads each in search of a league title, the two turned in a thoroughly enjoyable game for 40 minutes. Everything came down to a Draymond Green potential game-winning runner in the waning seconds, a shot that eventually clanked off the rim to preserve a one-point Michigan victory. On this night, like so many others, the home team prevailed in the Big Ten.
Five takeaways after the jump...
- Trey Burke has some legit shooting range. The true freshman has the confidence to let fly from pretty much anywhere out to 25 feet, regardless of whether there is a hand in his face or not. His final three-pointer of the night, with 5:34 left in the game, was so deep that the defense didn't even expect it (see: right). It usually takes a special combination of seniority, talent, swagger and trust from your coach for a kid to willingly jack up a triple from well behind the line with regularity. Stephen Curry was one of the most exciting players in the sport for his ability to make defenses pay all over the floor, and one of his biggest assets back then was an unbreakable confidence in his shooting stroke. Even though he's yet to play a full season, you can already tell by the way he carries himself that Burke has a rare type of confidence in himself.
- The Spartans are still the elite team we thought they were. Michigan held serve at home, which was important, but the Spartans were a great Draymond Green look away from walking out of Crysler Arena with a huge win. The shot itself, off balance or not, needed to go down. Most star players would have drained a game-winner from inside the free throw line in that same situation, and Green knows he missed one heck of a chance. The best thing to take from MSU's performance tonight was the resiliency showed by Tom Izzo's guys in a tough environment. Down by double-digits well into the second half, the Spartans hung tough, weathered the storm and eventually grabbed a lead of their own. This team put itself in a position to win on the game's final possession. Awfully hard to find fault in that.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. can't continue to be just a second half player. The Wolverines have the shooting ability to hang in games on nights when Hardaway disappears from the box score, but his second half play in this game alone was a clear indicator of his true worth to this team. In addition to an outstanding one-handed flush in transition, the sophomore looked much more comfortable after the intermission and was noticeably more active at both ends. The strange thing about Hardaway is how some nights when you watch him he looks like a borderline star in the making, and others when you wonder how the heck he leads this Michigan team in scoring. John Beilein needs to get more consistency out of his scoring guard.
- Michigan State's big guys need to focus on drawing more contact. The Spartans love to set up shop with Draymond Green on the low block, and they had a nice amount of success with him kicking the ball around and finding people inside when the double team came. But this type of ball movement ends up turning the Spartans into more of a perimeter-oriented team over the course of the game, and it's a big reason why MSU didn't attempt a single free throw in the opening half. By night's end, Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix combined to take exactly one shot from the charity stripe, and that's simply not good enough. It's incredibly hard to win a game when you only get to the free throw line five times, and Izzo's team found that out tonight.
- ESPN cameras flashed this sign at the end of the game for a fraction of a second. Just enough time to allow us to snag a pic, but not enough for the majority of viewers to fully notice. Come on, television networks. If you're going to reward a sign with TV exposure, at least give it a full second of love.