East Lansing, Mich. — Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce in your favor, and tonight it seemed like the ball didn’t want to bounce in the favor of the Michigan State Spartans or the Fighting Illini. This game was definitely hard on the eyes, and even worse on the Spartans record. The Spartans fall to 17-5 and 6-3 in the Big Ten with the 42-41 loss to the Fighting Illini (16-6, 5-4) tonight.
This loss might be the least of the Spartans worries, as Draymond Green, the team leader, leading scorer, and top rebounder, injured his left knee late in the 2nd half and never returned. Green, who spent most of the game in foul trouble, couldn’t put any pressure on his left leg as he hopped off of the court and took a seat at the end of the Spartan bench in agonizing pain.
Their has not been any confirmation on the extent of Green’s injury, but if he wasn’t able to return it would be safe to assume that it’s not looking good for the MSU senior.
This loss is the Spartans 3rd road loss in the Big Ten this season and 3rd loss in the past five games.
Illinois was suffering a three game losing streak before the Spartans entered Assembly Hall. This win also marks the Fighting Illini’s 2nd win against a top 10 team. Before they went on their three game slide, the Fighting Illini defeated the 5th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at home. Victories against the Spartans and Buckeyes could be enough to put Illionois in the Big Dance come March if they are on the bubble.
The Fighting Illini were lead tonight by junior Brandon Paul who ended the game with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Paul was the only double-digit scorer for Illinois, as he continues to prove that he is one of the Big Ten’s best scorers.
Paul had an opportunity to extend the Illinois lead with under 30 seconds left in the game, but failed to convert on 1-and-1s twice.
Derrick Nix had a chance to tie the game for the Spartans with under a minute remaining, but missed wide left on the first free throw attempt.
The inability to make shots for both teams is the reason that this game was so close. The final score resembled that of a high school JV game, and their were times when both teams looked like such.
Illinois shot 32.6% from the field only hitting 15 of 46 shots, and were out rebounded by the Spartans 43 to 30.
MSU shot 24.1% from the field only connecting on 14 of 58 shots.
The Spartans found a way to keep the game close without little help from sophomore point guard Keith Appling and seniors Brandon Wood and Draymond Green who combine to only average 12 points and 11 turnovers.
Michigan State was led once again by the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week Brandon Dawson, who finished the game with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
This raises the question, why didn’t Dawson take the last shot? I know, I know, you’re thinking who is this nerdy college student to question the great Tom Izzo’s play call on the final shot. But I’m still scratching my head on why Tom Izzo continues to put the game in the hands of his newly transitioned point guard, when it comes time to win the game. Izzo put the ball in the hands’ of Appling at the end of the Michigan game, and the young point guard put up a shot that ended up getting blocked by Jordan Morgan. Appling has struggled in the past two games shooting a horrific 2 for 19 form the field, so why does he have the ball in his hands when it’s time to win?
Dawson on the other hand has had two of the best games of his young career in the Spartans last two outings. The freshman is maturing right before our eyes, and with his big physique and athletic ability there are not many player that can successfully stay in front of him.
Maybe Izzo thinks that Dawson isn’t ready for that type of pressure, but then again, is Appling ready? He has had two chances this season to win the game for the Spartans and has come up empty handed. Appling came into MSU known as a scorer, and there have been times this season where he has been shut down offensively. His jump shot has been inconsistent, and I don’t think he strong enough yet to get to the bucket whenever he wants. I understand that he is only a sophomore, but when he is “on” the team is damn near unstoppable, and when he is struggling offensively the Spartans have a hard time scoring points.
Izzo decided not to get the ball in the hands of Dawson, the only player that was productive tonight, and I think it’s due in major part to the fact that Izzo does not think Dawson is ready. Izzo needs to incorporate Dawson into the offense more because that young man is definitely ahead of his time athletically.