The Huskies owned the first half and jumped out to a big double digit lead. The lead eventually vanished, but it was important to jump ahead early as it gave the team confidence.
Give Tom Izzo's crew credit as they fought their way back and took the lead in the 2nd half. As late as the 5:30 mark, the Spartans still held a lead, but that's when UConn took the lead back for good. Guard Ryan Boatright broke down the MSU defense and found Shabazz Napier for a three on the wing to give UConn a 59-58 lead. UConn stopped MSU on back-to-back possessions clinging on to a 1 point lead. That's when Boatright made a dagger trey with the shot clock winding down to give the Huskies a 62-58 lead. From there the Spartans never cut the lead below two again.
What Went Right
Almost the entire first half went right for UConn as they led the half from the start until the end, and at one point held a 16 point lead. The team came out inspired and was ready to play. Michigan State played poorly, but UConn did a fantastic job at taking advantage of turnovers and pushing the tempo.
Boatright set the tone of the game by making a steal and taking it in for a layup to start things off. UConn was able to score a number of points like this in transition both off of turnovers and by kicking out defensive rebounds quickly in transition.
The height of the lead came around the 8 minute mark in the half with two plays that were a microcosm of the first half for the Spartans --- sloppy offense and bad defense. First, Napier picked off a lazy pass by Alex Gauna and took it in transition with Boatright. 'Bazz threw Boat an Alley-oop, which the Boatshow threw down with an Iverson-like two hand slam. On UConn's next possession, they had an inbound underneath the MSU basket. Boatright somehow got free right under the basket, and Omar Calhoun found him open. Boatright inexplicably made an uncontested layup right under the Spartans hoop. The 34-18 lead was the height of UConn's lead.
What Went Wrong
Not surprisingly, the Huskies were murdered on the glass in this game particularly on the defensive end where the Spartans had a whopping 20 offensive boards. Michigan State outscored UConn 15-1 on 2nd chance points, and it probably should've been a lot more than that. Some of UConn's rebounding inefficiencies were natural due to the three guard lineup on the floor, but other times it was simply because the team didn't box out.
The decisive match-up was the Michigan State big men not taking advantage of their size and second chance opportunities enough. At 6'10", MSU's power forward Adreian Payne held a huge height advantage over DeAndre Daniels. How did he not grab one offensive rebound in the game? Meanwhile center Derrick Nix grabbed 7 offensive boards but finished with only 6 points.
Three Stars of the Game
1.Shabazz Napier-Everyone knew coming in that Napier would have to have a big night and he didn't disappoint by leading all scorers with 25 points on an impressive 8-for-16 from the floor. 'Bazz went 4-for-4 from the line late in the game to ice it. Maybe the most impressive stat was his 0 turnovers.
2.Ryan Boatright- Boatright gets some of the credit for Bazz's big performance as he was key at breaking down the defense to give him an easy look. Boatright finished with 13 points and 4 assists.
3.DeAndre Daniels-Daniels did most of his damage in the first half, but was key for UConn in building a huge lead. Daniels controlled the game through roughly a one and a half minute stretch. Daniels backed down the 6'10" Payne into the paint and used a sneaky good drop step to put in an easy layup. On the next possession Daniels buried a three which in all honesty was a little ill advised as he shot it with a defender on him, but it went in which is all that counts I guess. The best play game next though. Daniels got the ball in the corner and put up a shot fake behind the three point line. Payne fell for the fake and Daniels blew by him and threw down a nasty slam in his face when he was slow to recover. That short outburst
It was probably how well Kevin Ollie coached in his first game as head coach. That's not to say it was expected that Ollie would coach badly, but he did a hell of a job. The team came out inspired and showed relentless hustle which you have to credit Ollie with. Just as importantly, Ollie called timeouts at all the right times and went with his best lineup in the final minutes (Napier, Boatright, Evans, Daniels, Olander) not his starting lineup.
UConn lucked out by having their Armed Forces game in an airplane hangar instead of an aircraft carrier. The Ohio State/Marquette and Georgetown/Florida games were both postponed due to wet courts.