After falling to Michigan last Saturday, Oakland was on the losing end again exactly one week later against Michigan State. The Spartans continued their ascension toward playing at an elite level by soundly defeating the Grizzlies 82-66.
The country's 11 ranked team is starting to look more and more like one cohesive unit, and it all starts on the boards. The significantly more athletic Spartans out-rebounded Oakland 38-22.
The Spartans are making better decisions and are starting to play seamlessly. The number of stagnant possessions on offense has decreased greatly, and the continuity on defense is improving.
"I have to say I'm about as pleased with our preparation carried over to the game situation as I've been in a while," MSU coach Tom Izzo said.
When Goran Suton was forced out with a knee injury, his importance might have been underestimated. It seemed as if the team would be able to play at a high level without him considering the level of talent on the roster, but that was not the case. The Spartans aren't just a better team with Suton in the lineup, they are a different team, and it showed on Saturday.
His knee is apparently no longer a concern and his presence takes a load of pressure off the guards. The fifth year senior even showed his versatility by stepping out and draining two triples.
Suton was more effective on the glass as well. He grabbed eight rebounds to go along with 16 points. Suton said that the knee is 100 percent, but Coach Izzo feels that Suton still is not where he needs to be in another area.
"He says he's getting tired faster than he'd like to," Izzo said. "He's had a lot of time off. It wasn't just the four weeks. Even earlier in the season when we were conditioning, he wasn't conditioning."
Durrell Summers may be the most improved player over the first half of the regular season. His confidence has steadily risen, and it shows in his play. The athletic sophomore has shown the potential to be an explosive scorer in a variety of ways.
"He's starting to look better defensively. He's starting to rebound better," Izzo said. "I think he's starting to focus in, and if he does, we've got a lot of steps we can climb with him because he's just scratching the surface as far as I'm concerned."
The primary factor to Saturday's game was the play of point guard Kalin Lucas. Lucas just looks like he was born to play the position. He continued to get the other guys involved, but what stood out was that he was being more aggressive himself.
"They played Chris, Durrell and Raymar pretty tough, so in the first half I did get some shots and got going," Lucas explained. "Starting in the second half they started playing me more, and our wings started getting more shots and Travis started getting wide open shots."
Lucas finished the game with 15 points and 6 assists while committing one turnover. His coach was impressed with his performance as well.
"Kalin Lucas might have played his best game as a Spartan," Izzo said. "He just controlled the game, he pushed it on the break, he defended pretty well. I thought he did a great job."
MSU improved to 9-2 on the season.
Late in the second half, MSU freshman Delvon Roe went down with an injury. You could hear the heartbeats of thousands of Spartan fans inside the Palace, as they thought the promising player aggravated his previous knee injury.
"I thought it was his knee to be honest with you," coach Tom Izzo said. "My heart went down to my big toe."
It turns out that Roe turned his ankle. Izzo said that he does not know how severe the injury is, but did say that Roe was not on crutches and that it was probably more than just a minor sprain.