Jan 31, 2012

If you made it through Michigan State-Illinois, pat yourself on the back

If the 42 combined points in the first half, handfuls of fouls, turnovers and clock malfunctions during the 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans 42-41 loss to the host Illinois Fighting Illini (16-6, 5-4) didn't lull you to sleep Tuesday night, good for you.

The Spartans (17-5, 6-3)  opened the second half by stumbling, fumbling and then finally, senior Draymond Green, who had three fouls in eight minutes played during the first half, gave the Spartans a 36-35 lead with just under five minutes to play.

Tuesday night's bout between two of the Big Ten's best looked more like a sad exhibition rather than a meaningful conference road game for the Spartans. Sure, Green suffered from the flu, and guards like Keith Appling, Travis Trice and Brandan Kearney had trouble establishing any type of tempo, finding an open teammate, making a crisp pass, and playing with any type of intensity.

That covers it, right?

Dare I say this was the worst televised game since 2011's memorable Connecticut-Butler NCAA National Championship Game? UConn won that 53-41, and sadly, I must say that game took away hours from my life that I wish I could get back.

And after watching Green, who averages over 15 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Spartans, hobble off the court after twisting his knee, I started to feel the same way Tuesday night as I did back in April -- what a lackluster game. With the exception of freshman Branden Dawson's put-back which gave the Spartans a 40-37 lead with 2:23 to play, it looked like the Spartans were allergic to the paint for most of the night. Adreian Payne caught a nice lob from Trice early in the second half, but there were virtually no plays to reference in this one, or individual highlights other than Dawson's team-high 12 points.

Save yourself the trouble if you like to talk college basketball with your buddies: Don't even bring up the Michigan State-Illinois game. And if you do, there are a few stats that might make the discussion interesting. But you might as well say you caught the end prior to watching Vanderbilt-Arkansas.

Field goal percentage...

It was embarrassing for each team. The Spartans shot about 25 percent from the floor, while the Illini finished with a staggering 31 percent conversion rate. At one point, I bet myself on how many consecutive shots the Spartans would miss, which was five. I called four. Can't win all the time, right?

3-point shooting...

Each team made three from beyond the arc. No need to really count how many they missed, but if you were to do that, you'd come up with a number close to the amount of points the Spartans scored.

Typically I'm not one of those tongue-in-cheek guys, but really, if you watched Tuesday's game, you were probably left feeling the same. At least there is Michigan State-Michigan coming up this weekend.

Adam Biggers has followed NCAA basketball for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans. He can be reached by e-mail at Adam.Biggers@Yahoo.com, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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