Saturday, March 17, 2012

Michigan State Overwhelms Long Island University with Interior Play

The Big Ten Champions were just too big, too strong, too skilled, and practically impossible for the Blackbirds to defend in the paint.  Tom Izzo’s Michigan State (MSU) Spartans took full advantage of it.

Despite a hard fought effort, the undersized Long Island University (LIU) Blackbirds simply couldn’t overcome a monster effort from MSU’s interior trio of Adrelan Payne, Derrick Nix, and, of course, Big Ten Player of the Year and potential National Player of the Year, Draymond Green.  All three big men scored a combined 58 points on 26-for-41 shooting to go along with 27 rebounds and 12 assists.  Green led the charge with a triple double (24/12/10), which was the third of his career.

The gross interior mismatch resulted in an 89-67 defeat for LIU, which knocks them out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 64 game for the second straight year.

“I thought we did a good job using speed and quickness to negate their size in the first half.  We were a little overwhelmed in the 2nd,” said LIU head coach Jim Ferry in the post-game press conference.

After 20 minutes of play, LIU found themselves only down 5 points, 42-37.  LIU was staying competitive by out-producing MSU from behind the arc (5 made 3s versus 0 for MSU) and at the foul line (8 FTs versus 4).  CJ Garner led the charge with 8 points on only 4 shots, as his team was making an concerted effort to be aggressive on the offensive end.

For the second half however, Tom Izzo showed why he’s one of the best NCAA tournament coaches in the business.  The Spartans hardly went a possession without passing the ball into the interior, forcing the undersized forwards of LIU to defend players like Green, Payne, and the massive Nix.  The halftime adjustment quickly paid off, as MSU scored 10 points on their first 6 possessions of the second half, building a commanding double-digit lead.

MSU outscored LIU in the paint, 62-26.  They out-rebounded the Blackbirds, 42-19.  And that was obviously the difference, no matter how well the Blackbirds shot from the outside or how aggressive they were on offense.

Jamal Olasewere led LIU in the game with 17 points. Julian Boyd and C.J. Garner each had 15 points, while Michael Culpo ends his career on a soar note, scoring only 3 points on a 1 for 7 shooting performance.

After the game, you can’t help but wonder how much LIU’s 0-3 start to the season affected their chance at a #15 seed.  Given the vulnerably of the #2 seeds this season with Duke and Missouri losing, one could certainly make the argument that LIU had a chance to pull off an upset if they were put in the same position as Lehigh and Norfolk State. 

In spite of their second round of 64 loss in as many years and the early season disappointment though, the LIU Blackbirds had another excellent season under Ferry.  Michael Culpo is the only major contributor leaving due to graduation, so once again, LIU will enter next season as the undisputed NEC favorite.

Together with Wagner, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, and St. Francis, LIU will help lead the NEC into perhaps their most successful season for the 2012-2013 campaign.  It's an exciting prospect for the future of the conference and hopefully, the NEC will finally be able to pull off a NCAA Tournament upset.  It will happen one of these years.

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