It might be tempting to describe Michigan State's 76-71 win over Washington in the third place game of the Maui Invitational today as a "tale of two halves" when looking at the numbers.
In many ways, the teams flipped roles after halftime with MSU taking control and Washington scrambling - particularly on offense - to make something positive happen. Ultimately, MSU outplayed Washington in every major facet of the game in the second half after UW had just done the same to them in the first.
On the other hand, in many ways the game stayed the same: after a somewhat sloppy first half in which the two teams combined for 18 turnovers apiece with MSU turning it over 13 times, they again combined for 18 turnovers in the second half except it was Washington committing 10 of those turnovers.
Yet the biggest shift in the game definitely occurred on the offensive boards and Draymond Green was a key part of that.
Key player: Draymond Green
Green has been MSU's most dependable player thus far this season and that only continued with today's performance - Green finished with six rebounds, including a game-high four offensive rebounds. His work on the boards helped Michigan State turn the tide of the offensive rebounding battle in their favor in the second half by getting 43 percent of the available offensive rebounds compared to UW's 22 percent.
In addition to his game-high six rebounds, Green also scored his 12 points on an efficient 5-for-9 shooting, including one of Michigan State's five second half 3-pointers that catalyzed an 11-1 run that helped narrow the gap after finding themselves down nine points early in the second half.
And as much as the rebounding tell the story of this game, that second half shooting during their run says quite a lot as well.
Key statistic: shooting efficiency
As sloppy as this game was, both teams shot the ball rather well, with Michigan State shooting 50 percent in the second half. And those five 3-pointers - including two crucial ones from Durrell Summers in the final two minutes - made a big difference in the second half.
In the second half, Michigan State's effective field goal percentage - their field goal percentage weighted to take the added value of 3-pointers into account - was 60 percent compared to UW's 52 percent. After struggling to establish their offense in the first half, MSU just looked much more poised in the second half and did a better job getting themselves to the basket for high percentage shots. Their aggression going to the basket also resulted in a much higher free throw rate in the second half, with them taking 15 trips to the line and making 11.
Perhaps the matter of how they got to the basket so much more easily in the second half could be attributed to Washington's defense - which allowed more penetration and struggled to rotate in help - but it could also be a matter of gutsy players stepping up when needed.
Michigan State statistical MVP: Kalin Lucas
Guard Kalin Lucas scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half, including two go-ahead shots during the teams' see saw battle in the middle of the second half. And after struggling against Connecticut when using so many possessions, the most impressive thing is that he was a far more efficient scorer both in terms of getting to the line 11 times and shooting 9-for-13 from the field.
Another important point to note after his previous affair against Connecticut is that he cut down on his turnovers quite significantly, only turning the ball over on about nine percent of his possessions, which was almost definitely a factor in MSU cutting down on their turnovers in the second half.
And yet despite the big effort from Lucas and MSU's improvement on the boards, UW center Matthew Bryan-Amaning did have a chance to tie the game with 13 seconds left on a somewhat surprising play call.
UW statistical MVP: Matthew Bryan-Amaning
With the Huskies down 72-70 and only 13 seconds left, Bryan-Amaning drove the ball to the basket on what might have first been assumed to be a broken play - we so rarely see plays called for him that it's difficult to imagine why Romar would call a play for him.
And although the initial reaction might have been surprise, Romar's decision isn't that bad given the options.
After a solid first half, Isaiah Thomas cooled off in the second, finishing with 13 points. The same could be said to the next best performers today in Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday.
Although fans will always expect more of Bryan-Amaning, he played a solid game today with a team-high 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting as well as a team-high six rebounds. By no means is that to say he rebounded terribly well by percentage - definitely not on the defensive end - but one could argue that the bigger problem was that so few others were able to rebound.
The bottom line is that Bryan-Amaning was their best scoring threat in the second half and had just hit two free throws prior to that and finished shooting 5-for-7 for the game. Even if he is a career 50 percent free throw shooter, on this particular day, gambling on his free throw shooting was as good as anything else. While it's unfortunate that he missed one of those potentially game-tying free throws, it's also not reflective of a poor decision.
But that the game came down to relying on a 50 percent free throw shooter at the line is certainly not ideal and might add to some people's disappointment about the loss.