The Spartans proved to be too much for the defending champs as they defeated the young Kansas Jayhawks 75-62 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans now move to 13-2 on the season.
Non-conference games are always vital when it comes to seeding for the NCAA Tournament, and Kansas is a team that is improving and expected to challenge Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12. MSU coach Tom Izzo thinks that the young Jayhawks have endless potential.
"That's a good team, and we've played a lot of ranked teams so far and they're every bit as good," Izzo said after Saturday's win. "They're just young, and they're going to make some mistakes, but they are going to be really good."
The reason for the convincing victory was defense — MSU played suffocating man-to-man. One of the problems early in the season was the lack of communication on the defensive end, but it seems as if that is no longer a problem.
The Spartans had active hands, which led to many deflections and steals and the Jayhawks were forced into taking numerous bad shots and committing 14 turnovers.
"Every player (has) been communicating, talking about what we need to do," guard Travis Walton said. "We just have a good focus right now … hopefully we can continue to keep that focus up."
The Jayhawks' guard Sherron Collins finished the game with 25 points and 8 assists. Travis Walton (11 points 2 steals) had the job of guarding Collins, who is a tough player to guard because he has elite speed and great strength, and made him earn every point.
Many times, when Collins did manage to get around Walton, there were Spartans waiting to collapse on him. The defense forced him to attempt some difficult passes, which were often too tough for some of Kansas' big men to handle. Collins turned the ball over eight times on the afternoon.
"He can do everything. He can shoot the ball," Walton said. "He can penetrate, good free throw shooter, he's strong, but I think for the most part we did a good job on him."
The defense played by Idong Ibok down low against Kansas' Cole Aldrich was important to the Spartans' defensive efforts. Ibok's length gave Aldrich some problems getting his shot off. In only 14 minutes of play, Ibok recorded 2 blocks.
"He's really good at using his size and his length, and getting deep position in the post for high-low passes. We tried to keep him as far off of the paint as we could," Ibok said. "In general, I think we did a good job, and we got the win and that's what matters."
SLOW SECOND HALF
Michigan State's defense was stifled a little bit in the second half due to very tight officiating. Neither team was able to be as aggressive on the defensive end.
There were 28 fouls called against Kansas and 27 against the Spartans. Michigan State went to the line more frequently than the Jayhawks, shooting 35 free throws compared to Kansas's 28. The tremendous amount of whistles contributed to the game lasting around two-and-a-half hours.
"We really can't stop that, it's just apart of the game," Raymar Morgan (13 points 8 rebounds) said. "I'm just glad we stuck with it and got the win."
The Spartans take the court again on Wednesday in State College, PA against Penn State at 6:30 p.m. EST.