14 field goals.
Those are the only two stats that you need to know out of No. 4 Louisville’s 57-44 win over No. 1 Michigan State in one West Region semifinal on Thursday night. Michigan State turned the ball over 15 times and made just 14 shots. It is nearly impossible to win a basketball game that way.
And that’s part of the reason the outcome of this game is so surprising.
Michigan State is known for their ruggedness. They are a blue-collar team led by Draymond Green, the player with the bluest-collar in the country, that thrives on their ability to defend and hit the glass. They win with their toughness, which is what makes it so surprising to see them get out-toughed.
But that is exactly what happened against Louisville, and Michigan State looked completely overwhelmed. They turned the ball over, they struggled to get good looks at the rim and they were forced into ugly possession after ugly possession after ugly possession. That’s usually the Spartan’s game-plan.
Think about it like this: it wasn’t until the six minute mark of the second half — when Brandon Wood scored on back-to-back possessions to cut a 13 point lead to eight — that a Spartan other than Green hit a second field goal. It wasn’t until the final seconds — when Derrick Nix threw down a breakaway dunk — that the Spartans had a third player make a second field goal.
Chane Behanan led the way with 15 points and eight boards for Louisville, but the star of the night was Gorgui Dieng, who finished with five points, nine boards, seven blocks and three steals. He dominated the paint, playing a major role in the fact that Michigan State’s front line of Green, Nix and Adreian Payne combined for just 21 points on 8-26 shooting and only four offensive rebounds.
Louisville dominated Michigan State in every aspect of the game that we are used to seeing the Spartans dominate. That’s impressive.