This game was a battle between #1 ranked Michigan State, and #2 ranked Kentucky. Both teams brought elite intensity to this one. If they both continue to play with this toughness and energy it will make up for their average-below-average shooting in March. Kentucky attacked mostly with their 4 out 1 in dribble drive motion and looked to get it inside some to all of their bigs. Michigan’s state offensive attack was based primarily on ball screens for Cassius Winston. Their spacing was just average on this because they need more shooting, and they will get that when Josh Langford comes back from injury in January.
This was a great legal push off from Cassius to create space for a three. As long as you don’t fully extend your arm it is legal to bump the defender to create space, and this is one of the best ways to do that. All great shot creators master this skill.
Michigan State plays mostly 2 big lineups and it hurts the spacing Cassius has to work with as you can see in this picture. When Cassius gets by Sestina here he is forced into a tough floater that he makes, but he would have had more efficient options when he drew two defenders if one of Michigan State’s big was along the perimeter. Because both bigs are close together in the paint #12 for Kentucky can be in a position where he can guard both of them. I hope to see Malik Hall play more later in the year because he can stretch the floor well, and I would bet Coach Izzo makes this adjustment.
Kentucky could use Nate Sestina more as a shooter than a post-up threat. This would help their spacing, and give their quick guards a lot more room to drive. Their speed is their biggest strength as a team. Sestina is solid in the post, but in the SEC he will be less efficient down there then he was in the Patriot League, and his three-point shooting should transfer. He definitely should still get some post touches, but I would like to see him spaced more than he was in this game.
On this play, Marcus Bingham has to get his body on Maxey. If he seals him off this is an easy pass for Cassius right to him for a dunk, and Maxey won’t be able to deflect it. Because he doesn’t seal Maxey off this is a risky pass for Cassius, and he doesn’t throw it. Because Bingham didn’t get his body on Maxey and seal him off the advantage created by Cassius drawing 2 defenders to him in the Pick and Roll is ruined. When you get two defenders guarding 1 you should get a great look every time.
Kentucky’s elite energy in the first half takes them to the locker room up 34-24.
Michigan State was packing the lane at the start of this half, and this is smart because Kentucky didn’t seem willing to shoot these threes. I was waiting for someone to pull one of these because this not only is a good shot analytically, but it will force the defense to come out on you, which opens up the paint where they can get their best looks. Whitney and Kentucky’s other wings should look to shoot more threes when the paint is packed.
Michigan State could have taken better advantage of Cassius drawing two guys here. I would like to see Henry cut to the basket, and that would force Whitney to take that cut away, which would make the skip to Brown open and force Kentucky into closeout situations. They still end up getting a great look because Quickley foolishly reaches when the ball is kicked out to Hall, but there were better options.
The game ultimately comes down to players making plays, and this was a great play from a top 2 if not the best player on the court in this game Tyrese Maxey. This is a tough shot to go up 5, and Michigan State is more than willing to give up this look. If Maxey misses this who knows if Kentucky wins this game.
The Next play down Izzo calls a great ATO with horns action into a down screen that gets this look for Ahrens that misses. They couldn’t have asked for a better look, and this is why the game comes down to the players making plays, Maxey makes an extremely tough shot, then Ahrens misses a very good look.
Kentucky had .92PPP for the game but 1.571PPP in transition. They only had .77PPP in the half-court. They need to work on their halfcourt offense, although their post players did play well. They had 1.143PPP when they got the ball in the post. They had a horrible .364PPP around the rim in the half-court, and this is because of their lack of floor spacing and Michigan State had smart help at the rim. Kentucky won the game with their transition offense, and a lot of these were off Michigan State turnovers. Michigan State had .785PPP. They had .958PPP in the Pick and Roll, and 1PPP on Winston Pick and Rolls. They had .571PPP on jump shots, and it is hard to tell from 1 game whether they are a bad shooting team or they shot bad. That will make or break their season. Winston didn’t shoot as well as he’s capable of, and I would like to see Henry develop more confidence in his jumper. I wonder if Michigan State could also use Henry as a backup point guard, and secondary ball-handler because Winston doesn’t have a lot of help in terms of shot creation. I do believe Michigan State is the better team even though they lost, especially with Langford back because he will help their floor spacing, defense, and he is experienced. Michigan State also got in a lot of foul trouble, forcing some of their better players to sit, more than Coach Izzo would have liked.
A-TO Ratio: 9-10
Offensive Rebounds: 5
A-To Ratio: 14-16
Offensive Rebounds 7