Michigan State got its first ever win at Cameron Indoor Arena with a gritty 75-69 win over Duke as part of the 2020 Champions Classic. The win was the Spartans’ first against the Blue Devils in the yearly event.
The Spartans got off to a very slow start, struggling from the field early and falling behind by double digits. But just as we saw against Notre Dame, defense led to offense. MSU toughened up defensively and slowly but surely the offense came around. Michigan State turned a double-digit disadvantage into a four point halftime lead and never looked back.
As we will likely see throughout the year, this was a full team effort. Five Spartans finished in double figures scoring, led by Rocket Watts with 20 points. The sophomore guard got his first start of the year and had an up-and-down game, but provided the spark when needed.
Aaron Henry had 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals, and three blocks as he continues to stuff the stat sheet. His defense was stellar all evening and helped spur that run late in the first half for MSU.
Michigan State also got key contributions from big men Julius Marble and Malik Hall. Marble finished with a career high 12 points and was a perfect 5-5 from the floor and 2-2 from the line. Hall finished with a double-double with 10 points and ten rebounds. Both played stellar defense as well and showcased MSU’s front line depth.
Overall the Spartan bench had another very strong game, and really helped MSU get back into the game early on after falling behind and dealing with foul trouble.
Speaking of foul trouble, Joey Hauser picked up a couple early fouls, but came back to finish with his second straight double-double before fouling out late in the game.
Matthew Hurt led the way for Duke with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
This was a huge early season win for MSU, and it was a gritty, classic Tom Izzo team win. They gutted it out, played tough defense, rebounded well, pulled ahead, and then gave us all a scare late. The difference between this game and many other early season matchups with the Blue Devils is that this time it was the Spartans who came out on top and looked like the overall better team.
There is a lot of work to be done between now and the end of the season, but the start for this MSU team has been impressive considering the players they lost from last year. There will be some rough moments for sure, but it is looking like the depth of this team is going to be a huge factor going forwards.
If I told you that Josh Langford, Gabe Brown, and Marcus Bingham would combine for three points tonight, you probably tell me that MSU loses this one easily. But this is the beauty of depth. Other players step up when needed. Tonight it was Hall and Marble. Tomorrow it could be Brown and Bingham. The next day Thomas Kithier and Foster Loyer. Izzo can tinker and play the hot hand and this team should only improve as we move forward.
The Spartans win at Duke. What a beautiful thing. Up next is a Friday late afternoon game with Detroit Mercy followed by a Sunday evening tip against Western Michigan. Both of those games are at Breslin.