Sunday, February 06, 2005
I added a page to rank Big Ten teams by a few different statistics for conference games -
- off/def efficiency
- off rebound rate
The link is in the upper right corner of the sidebar. I'll try to keep it updated each Sunday night.
Iowa-MSU by the Numbers
The big question coming in to yesterday's game was how Iowa's offense could handle the loss of leading scorer Pierre Pierce. Conventional wisdom said that Pierce's contributions were irreplaceable, and Iowa's offense would struggle without him.
While the Hawkeyes did struggle to penetrate at times, and shot very poorly from the field, the offense was just fine. Defense cost them their game this weekend.
Let's do the math (here's the box score) -
MSU = 55 FGA - 12 Oreb + 9 TO + 0.4 x 29 FTA = 63.6 possessions
Iowa = 52 FGA - 13 Oreb +8 TO + 0.4 x 42 FTA = 63.8 possessions
So there were roughly 64 possessions in this game.
Iowa scored 64 points on their 64 possessions. That's an offensive rating of 100, compared to Iowa's 102 through its first 7 Big Ten games. Keep in mind that that 100 came against the Big Ten's second-best defense. MSU's current defensive rating is 98, compared to the league average of 104. So I don't think there's any reason to panic about Iowa's offense.
Iowa's defense was lit up to the tune of a 117 defensive rating. That was mostly due to MSU limiting its turnovers and shooting well on a high number of free throws.
A quick look at some other notable numbers -
MSU - 47%
Iowa - 31%
MSU - 14%
Iowa - 13%
MSU - 34%
Iowa - 32%
MSU - 0.53
Iowa - 0.81
I was worried coming into the game that MSU would crush the Hawks with offensive rebounding, but that didn't turn out to be the case. The Spartans grabbed 12 offensive boards to Iowa's 23 defensive rebounds, a rate below their third-in-the-Big-Ten 37%. So it was a good effort by the Hawks on the glass (hmmm, Erek Hansen plays only 14 min, Iowa does OK on allowing offensive rebounds......is there a correlation?).
So as you can see, Iowa dug itself a huge hole with its poor shooting, but closed some of the gap by shooting a lot of free throws. Haluska and Horner shot almost half of the free throws, leading to a very respectable 76% for the day.
Here's how the players did individually -
Michigan State 75, Iowa 64
Enough Iowa fans crowded into Carver-Hawkeye yesterday to give the Arena its first sell-out of the season, and they were treated to a strong second half comeback. Iowa played a decent game, without the services of recently dismissed leading scorer Pierre Pierce, but ultimately came up short and lost 75-64.
The Hawks started the game very cold from the field and could only muster 5 field goals in 22 first half attempts (23%), and didn't hit their third field goal until the 4:52 mark. They seemed to get fouled every time they went inside, though, and kept the game within reach by shooting 23 first half free throws, making 16. Greg Brunner picked up his second foul before the first TV timeout, and his absence was a major factor in the team's offensive struggle. Iowa was able to keep the deficit around ten points, but Michigan State banked in a three to beat the shot clock on their last possession of the half to lead 39-27.
MSU opened the second half with a 14-4 run in the first 4 and a half minutes to reach their largest lead of the game (22). Iowa answered with a 16-4 run of its own, fueled mainly by the rebounding and 7 points from Brunner. But he picked up another foul with just over 9 minutes left, and Iowa would again struggle without him.
The Iowa crowd was as energetic as it has been all season, and even stood for extended periods of time, especially at the end of the game. As far as pure excitement at a basketball game goes, there aren't many moments greater than the crescendo of crowd noise during a series of successful plays. The following run was one such set of plays -
3:00 MSU 67, IA 58
2:42 offensive rebound, Doug Thomas
2:42 2 FTM, Greg Brunner, 67-60
2:21 steal by Doug Thomas
2:07 layup by Greg Brunner, 67-62
Michigan State found Paul Davis open on the baseline on their next possession. He went up for what looked to be the exclamation point two-handed dunk. But Brunner slid over and and reached up for what looked like a game-saving block. The crowd initially erupted, but a late whistle turned into Brunner's 5th foul, and with 1:25 left, it looked like all hope was lost.
Just when Iowa needed help the most, Paul Davis missed both free throws. On the other end, Jeff Horner drove into traffic and threw up an off-balance runner that somehow kissed the backboard and spun into the basket, and a ref's whistle pierced the frenzied screams of the crowd......count the basket! But Iowa's magic act would end there. The refs somehow called Horner for a charge (yet counted the basket). I've never understood that call, and I won't pretend to now. I will say that on the news it looked like the MSU player was clearly under the basket when Horner fell onto him after his shot.
The call proved to be the rally killer, as MSU made two free throws on Horner's foul to reach a 5 point lead, then added six more in the final minute as Iowa scrambled to stop the clock. All in all, it was a great effort from a group that looked overmatched against the Big Ten's best defense.
- Mike Henderson got the start in Pierce's old lineup spot, with Hansen, Haluska, Brunner, and Horner taking their usual spots. Henderson played 33 minutes, which was exactly what I was hoping Alford wouldn't do. He adds nothing to the offense - he can't shoot from anywhere on the floor and he doesn't create shots for anyone else. Just what you want from a ballhandler, right? He either brings the ball up the court, or catches it at the top of the key and dribbles off a few seconds before passing it to the wing. It just seems redundant to me to have Horner and Henderson playing together when you could bring Reed in to add another scoring option. People will argue that Henderson needs to be in the game for his defense, but I wasn't too impressed with his D yesterday. It seemed like he was always getting beat far from the basket and then running to catch up to his guy. Whatever you think his defensive value is, I don't think it comes close to making up for his lack of offense. To his credit, though, Henderson did play those 33 minutes without a single turnover.
- Adam Haluska finally stayed out of trouble, played 35 minutes, and became Iowa's primary scoring threat. He, like everyone else, was cold early on but found a way to get to the free throw line. His outside shot continued to falter (just 1-7 on threes), but he attacked the basket often, making several inside baskets and shooting 11 free throws, and ended with 24 points. Haluska has shown flashes of offensive excellence throughout the season, but always seemed like the 4th scoring option because of his reluctance to drive. His ability to score will definitely help soften the blow of Pierce's departure.
- Greg Brunner was great when he was in the game, scoring 16 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, but foul trouble limited him to 23 minutes. Iowa's roster suddenly seems very thin, with Mike Henderson starting and guys like Alex Thompson and Seth Gorney getting minutes when Brunner is on the bench. Brunner will have to stay on the court and out of foul trouble for Iowa to be successful going forward.
- I'm growing increasingly frustrated with Alford's willingness to give away rebounds by starting Erek Hansen. Doug Thomas has outplayed Hansen throughout the Big Ten season, but only through Hansen's foul trouble has Thomas been able to get more minutes. Hansen fouled out after playing only 14 minutes, and failed to grab a single rebound.
- Jeff Horner struggled to get a good look at the basket all game. MSU kept a guy on Horner the full length of the court, and Jeff could only muster 2-12 shooting against the pressure, including 1-7 on threes. He, like Haluska, mitigated the cold shooting by getting to the line. Horner had been struggling with free throws, but came up big in hitting all 8 of his attempts.