Spartans win with size, quickness

Zach Silka

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Following his team’s 87-58 demolition of Northwestern on Saturday, Michigan State center Paul Davis looked fresh, calm and relaxed.

He and his fellow forwards on the Spartans’ roster didn’t look like men who had just come from 40 minutes of battle in the paint.

But just down the corridor, the Wildcats’ post players came out of their locker room broken and beaten.

For the majority of the afternoon, Michigan State (10-2, 2-0 Big Ten) had its way with NU (8-6, 1-1) in the interior.

Davis finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals, while Michigan State swingman Alan Anderson tallied 13 points, three rebounds and five assists.

As a team the Spartans outscored the Cats 50-22 in the paint and outrebounded NU 30-19, including 13-3 on the offensive boards.

“The way they play their zone, I thought we could really hurt them down low,” Davis said. “For the most part, we ran our stuff the way we wanted to.”

NU coach Bill Carmody echoed those sentiments, citing matchup deficiencies on his team.

“Speed and quickness are very important,” he said. “Size isn’t everything in that situation.”

With forward Davor Duvancic not making the trip because of the flu, the loss of forward Vedran Vukusic to a shoulder injury with 8:08 left in the first half hurt NU.

While Vukusic returned with 16:25 left in the game, he was more tentative in the paint and was not the interior force he was in the first half. Six of the junior’s 12 points came from beyond the arc.

“They just didn’t let us get the ball down low,” Vukusic said. “I guess they worked on that a lot, just keeping the ball out of the low post.”

The injury also forced Carmody to use swingman Tim Doyle as a power forward for some of his 37 minutes on the floor.

While the sophomore did score seven points, just two came in the paint.

“You have me out there at 6-foot-5,” Doyle said. “It was just the size and the athleticism of them.”

Also contributing to the large rebounding deficit was the Cats’ strategy of not having anyone on the block during NU free throws.

“We wanted to stay away as much as we could from the offensive boards,” Vukusic said. “Coach said 30 percent of their offense comes from fast breaks. They fly down the court on a make or miss.”

Despite conserving energy by limiting the Spartans’ speed, NU’s big men weren’t as fresh as the Michigan State forwards in the second half.

“They had a better rotation going,” said NU center Mike Thompson, who finished with a team-high 16 points. “They had a three-man rotation going, and we don’t have that. I think it took a toll at the end.”

Reach Zach Silka at [email protected].