Stats & Info: Pat Connaughton

Key to OSU-MSU: Transition game

January, 7, 2014
For the first time in series history, Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans will meet as top-5 opponents (9 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN).

The AP Poll isn't the only ranking with both teams in the top five.

When the Buckeyes and Spartans meet tonight, the key matchup could be in transition.

Michigan State's transition offense ranks third in the country with 24.3 points per game. Ohio State's transition defense allows just 7.4 points per game, fourth-fewest of any team.

Michigan State transition offense
The Spartans transition offense is led by Gary Harris (6.2 PPG) and Keith Appling (5.3 PPG), who lead the Big Ten in transition scoring.

Michigan State looks to push the ball quickly and often, whether it's off a missed shot, a made shot, or a turnover. The Spartans average 21.5 transition plays per game, the third-most in the country.

Much of their success in transition has to do with their ability to finish well around the basket. The Spartans are shooting 63 percent at the rim this season, eight-best among all teams.

Here's an example of a successful Michigan State transition play and how it transpired:

1. Against Kentucky, Branden Dawson grabbed a defensive rebound in the middle of the paint. Once Dawson secured the rebound, it's evident that all five Kentucky players were turned towards the ball with their eyes on Dawson, while Denzel Valentine was already leaking out in the open court.

2. Without dribbling, Dawson threw the ball ahead to Valentine for an outlet pass over the mid-court line. At the same time, three Michigan State players were spaced out while sprinting down the court with two Kentucky defenders behind them.

3. When Valentine caught the outlet pass, Aaron Harrison was the only Kentucky player back on defense.

4. Dawson -- who originally grabbed the rebound and threw the outlet pass -- beat four Kentucky players down the court, creating a 2-on-1 fast break for the Spartans. Valentine took just one dribble and threw an alley-oop to Dawson for an easy dunk. The entire play lasted less than four seconds.

Ohio State transition defense
Something will have to give in East Lansing tonight, because the Buckeyes transition defense has been just as dominant as the Spartans transition offense this season.

The Buckeyes limit their opponents to just 8.9 transition plays per game, the 14th-fewest of any team. Not only do they limit transition opportunities but they are efficient defending in transition as well. They hold their opponents to the 11th-fewest points per transition play. Teams are shooting just 43 percent against them on those plays.

Let's take a look at an example of an Ohio State defensive transition play that ended with a turnover:

1. After a defensive rebound by Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton, he passed the ball ahead to Demetrius Jackson near mid-court.

2. By the time Jackson caught the outlet pass, four Ohio State defenders were already ahead of the ball. As Jackson dribbled down the right side of the court, the four Ohio State defenders closest to Jackson all appeared to have their eyes on Jackson.

3. As Jackson attacked the basket, all five Ohio State defenders had at least one foot in the paint.

4. Aaron Craft forced Jackson to leave his feet under the basket, and Shannon Scott intercepted the pass.

The tempo of the game could play a large part in the outcome as Ohio State tries to limit Michigan State's easy points.

The Buckeyes transition defense is a large part why they rank second in the country in defensive efficiency and haven't allowed 70 points in any game this season.

Charles LeClaire/US PresswireJames Ennis (above) and his 49ers teammates were soaring in Wednesday's win over Pittsburgh.

•  Long Beach State stunned No. 9 Pittsburgh, 86-76, snapping all sorts of noteworthy streaks. The Panthers had won 58 straight at home against non-conference opponents, and this is just their second loss in the last 109 such games.

Pittsburgh had also won 52 straight home games against unranked opponents. Until Wednesday, the Panthers were 41-0 in November against unranked non-conference foes since the opening of the Petersen Events Center.

Long Beach State had lost 20-straight games against ranked opponents, last winning in 1994 against New Mexico State. It’s the 49ers first win over a top-10 foe since knocking off No. 1 Kansas in 1993.

So how’d the 49ers do it? Long Beach State shot 59.3 percent from the field, the best shooting percentage against a Pittsburgh team by a non-conference team since Maryland shot 62.7 percent in November 1998. Pittsburgh's bench combined to shoot 0-for-6 from the field, and finished with only two points.

• Three games into his Oklahoma State career and Cezar Guerrero already has the fans chanting his name. The freshman came off the bench for 29 points in the Cowboys’ 90-85 overtime escape of UTSA. It tied Oklahoma State’s freshman scoring record, which he now shares with James Anderson and Byron Houston. Guerrero hit 8-of-17 from three-point range, the second most makes in school history.

The 29 points were the most by a Big 12 player coming off the bench since Mike Singletary’s epic 44-point performance for Texas Tech in 2009. It’s the most for a Big 12 freshman coming off the bench since LaceDarius Dunn’s 38 in 2008.

•  Penn State’s Tim Frazier had his second straight 20-point, 10-assist game as the Nittany Lions defeated Long Island 77-68. Frazier had a career-high 26 points, and is averaging 20.7 ppg and 8.7 apg through three games.

That’s a huge scoring improvement from 6.3 ppg in 2010-11. There have only been six 20-point, 10-assist games in the nation this season, and Frazier has two of them. He’s the first major conference player to have two such games in November in at least the last 15 seasons.

•  Oregon State topped Hofstra 82-72 in what head coach Craig Robinson called “by far the gutsiest win I've seen since I've been here.” Jared Cunningham scored a career-high 35 points, the most by an Oregon State player since Marcel Jones’ 35 in November 2006.

Joe Burton (11 assists, 10 rebounds) became the first Oregon State player with double-digit assist in seven years, and the first with 10 rebounds and 10 assists in at least the past 15 seasons. Though the Beavers haven’t played a tough early schedule, they are 3-0 for the first time since 2000-01.

•  At halftime, the score was Pat Connaughton 17, Sam Houston State 16. Notre Dame actually held a 22-point halftime lead on its way to a 74-41 win, but it was the freshman that was the story. He finished with 24 points, the most by a Notre Dame freshman since Torin Francis in March 2003. His six 3-pointers were the most by an Irish freshman since Chris Thomas in March 2002.

For a Notre Dame team historically lacking in bench scoring, it was a rare high-scoring performance by a non-starter. In fact, the 24 points are the most off the bench by a Notre Dame player since Chris Quinn in 2003.