Day after Michigan State

Gonzaga's David Stockton is roughed up in the second half against Michigan State's Adreian Payne. (Dan Pelle)
Gonzaga's David Stockton is roughed up in the second half against Michigan State's Adreian Payne. (Dan Pelle)

Good morning. Let's get right to the day-after Michigan State post.

It's been a rough stretch for Gonzaga. The Zags lost to Michigan State, picked third in Big Ten preseason poll, and Illinois, picked sixth, both by seven points, seven days apart. Here are the links: S-R game story, John Blanchette column and Dan Pelle photos. Here are gamers from A.P., the Lansing State-Journal and Grand Rapids Press, a column from the Detroit Free Press and another recap from

A couple of alarm bells ringing after this one. For the second straight game, GU's defense was an issue. Illinois blistered GU with 53 percent shooting and MSU drained 54 percent. The Spartans average 74.8 points per game, but their season averages were 46 percent on field goals, 30.4 percent on 3s and 67.7 percent at the line. They were well above those averages (54.2% FG and 46.2% on 3s), the exception coming at the line (64%) where they missed several free throws late. After Illinois hung 82 on Gonzaga, it mustered just 48 in a sloppy win over St. Bonaventure.

Read on.

--Let start with the difference-maker, Draymond Green. He made his last 10 shots. He was too physical for Mike Hart on the low block and he was effective on the pick-and-pop for several 3s, at least two of them with Elias Harris late to recover. He also took Robert Sacre to the hole and drew a foul in the second half.

Green isn’t necessarily known as a big-time scorer. He had six 20-point games (one of those a season-high 23 points vs. Nebraska Omaha last week) in 117 career games before torching GU for 34 points. He came in shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 26.7 percent on 3s, but he was patient, smart, took advantage of mismatches and showed a soft shooting touch. He also had three assists and three steals. Green’s points, much like Kevin Pangos’ 33-point game against WSU, all seemed to come within the offense.

“All those guys are great defenders, especially Hart,” Green said. “He’s about my size, but I’ve got him by a few pounds. Harris is super athletic. It wasn’t easy to score on those guys. I have to give credit to my guards. They set me up perfectly.”

Green has had pretty good success in Spokane. MSU won two NCAA Tournament games here two years ago.

“I guess Jud brings the luck,” he said.

--That would be former MSU coach and GU season-ticket holder Jud Heathcote, who was honored during a pregame ceremony. Jud sat within 15 feet of MSU’s bench and his hand-picked successor, Spartans coach Tom Izzo.

“I did it (scheduled a home and home with Gonzaga) for Mark (Few), who has become a good friend, but I don’t think any of it would have happened if not for Jud,” Izzo said. “I appreciate the job Mark and Mike (Roth, A.D.) did for Jud and the way the fans applauded him. That was special for me.”

Said Few: “That was great, really cool and well deserved. He’s just one of the all-time greats. He’s unbelievable, a unique person whose meant a lot to me and my career and I know he’s meant a lot to Tom.”

--Few acknowledged Green “was brilliant. If you double him, he can pass out of it. We tried different matchups on him. He’s just a really special college player.”

But the coach was disappointed with GU’s defensive breakdowns.

“We had a couple of miscues on our ball screen coverage, which we had been pretty good at,” Few said. “Those are mental errors and it got Draymond going a little bit. Actually, a lot.”

Hart agreed: “We had a few too many miscommunications. We didn’t know if we were switching sometimes and it gave them some wide-open looks. A lot of their points were off those.”

--Harris had a difficult night at both ends of the court. He made just 2 of 11 shots, missing a couple that he would probably normally make, but he often took off-balance, contested shots over a well-positioned Green. Harris had been showing improvement on the defensive end, but Saturday wasn’t one of his better nights.

“I think we just didn’t play hard enough, turned the ball over way too often,” Harris said. “Draymond is a great player. We got him going too early with easy, open shots, early in the clock. Once you get confidence as a player, you barely miss.”

Harris didn’t think Gonzaga “played hard enough. … (Green) did a good job defending, but once again it was on us not playing hard enough, not attacking hard enough, just not playing hard, the basic things we always do. If we would have done that, if I would have done that, it might have been a little different.”

Sacre was more productive inside, but all of his 16 points were hard-earned. He didn’t get many touches early and when he did he turned it over – once when he tried to make a high-low post feed and another when he was stripped by Austin Thornton doubling down. Sacre finally got going late in the half with a jump-hook at the 6:50 mark and six late free throws.

His second half was a mixed bag. He was 3 of 5 from the field and added two more free throws. He had five of his seven rebounds. However, his impact didn’t seem to match the numbers. He finished with three turnovers and had a couple of defensive miscues when Derrick Nix scored six points in a three-minute span.

“They’re just a physical team, a big-body team and it made it very difficult for me to get touches,” Sacre said. “It’s Michigan State, you know what you’re getting yourself in to when you play Michigan State – a tough, physical team, a Final Four team every year.”

Said Few: “You’re playing against high-level athletes, big and strong and they can contest things around the rim. By and large, the game is played a little more physical, the style of officiating, and it’s something we’ve always been able to adapt to.”

--Before the season, many wondered if sophomore guard David Stockton’s role would be diminished with the arrival of freshmen guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. Instead, Stockton has emerged as GU’s second-leading scorer over the last four games (53 points), trailing only Sacre’s 62 and ahead of Harris’ 47, Pangos’ 37 and Bell Jr.’s 33. Stockton had a career-high 19 points vs. MSU.

Stockton has played 25, 26, 29 and 22 minutes the last four games. The odd man out of late has been senior Marquise Carter. He played just 14 minutes against Illinois as Bell Jr. replaced him in the starting lineup at the outset of the second half. Bell Jr. started Saturday night while Carter played just 10 minutes, 3 in the second half.

Carter hasn’t found the offensive rhythm he displayed over the last half of the 2011 season. He’s shooting just 36.1 percent and he has 19 turnovers against 16 assists.

--If you had told me before the game Gonzaga would outrebound MSU 28-25, have a 10-1 edge in second-chance points, make 7s, shoot 50 percent from long distance and get to the foul line 28 times, I would have predicted a 10-point GU win.

However, most of the other numbers lined up in the Spartans’ favor. They had a 23-16 advantage in points off turnovers and 30-22 in points in the paint. They play stellar defense. They’re physical, well positioned and rarely fall for ball fakes. They can recover in a hurry. They had a lot of quality looks at the basket while Gonzaga didn’t seem to have any reliable offensive options.

Michigan State is really, really good. They are tough, poised and did a great job executing and finishing plays,” Few said.


--Gonzaga became the first team to outrebound MSU this season (28-25). Hart and Sacre each had 7.

--The Bulldogs have 19 assists and 36 turnovers the last two games. They had a season-low nine assists and a season-high 20 turnovers vs. MSU. Sam Dower had three turnovers in 15 minutes and Carter three in 10.

--MSU had 18 assists on 26 baskets.

--Sacre has been consistent in the scoring column. He’s been in double figures in all seven games and here’s his last six: 15, 16, 15, 15, 16 and 15.

--The Spartans are the first team with double-digit steals against GU (10). Their 18 assists was also a season-high against Gonzaga.


Harris on physical play of Michigan State and Illinois: “Michigan State was one of the more physical teams we’ve played so far, especially inside. They’ve got a great inside force in Draymond. They have big dudes in there. It was different than Illinois. (MSU) played a lot more physical.”

Izzo: “Payne and Nix did a pretty good job inside on Sacre. That was a war inside all night long.”

Few on the turnovers: “I think we were a little anxious, trying to hit home runs on the first action and it never works that way. We always want to get to that second and third side. We bobbled a couple balls inside and that’s because Michigan State is so solid defensively. They don’t give you anything easy.”

Few on GU’s tough December stretch: “Whether you win or lose, you have to put it away. We have Finals first (next week) and then we have to get ready for what’s probably going to be an NCAA Tournament team (Oral Roberts).”

Bell Jr. on starting: “That felt good, but if I come off the bench or (start) I try to start on defense and that will help my offense.”

Bell Jr. on Green: “Just a smart player. He’s strong and he has sneaky bounce, has long arms and he uses all of it to his advantage.”

Harris: “They played harder and more consistently over 40 minutes than we did.”

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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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