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Michigan State pulls away late and beats Detroit Mercy, 83-76

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Rocket Watts scored 23 points as the Spartans avoid the upset

NCAA Basketball: Detroit at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans picked up their fourth win in as many tries Friday evening with an 83-to-76 win over Detroit Mercy. But, it wasn’t easy.

The Spartans built up an eight-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the game but struggled with turnovers and cold shooting, which allowed Detroit to fight its way back and even claim the lead, 26-24 with under seven minutes to play in the first half. Neither team led by more the three points for the remainder of the first stanza.

At the break, the score was tied 35-all. MSU was shooting only 32 percent from the field (10-for-32), 25 percent from three (three-for-12), and had 11 turnovers.

MSU once again built a slim lead early in the second half, only to see it slip away with more sloppy play. The Titan led by as many as five-points, 59-54, halfway through the second half. But, soon after the under-eight-minute time out. Rocket Watts scored eight-straight points for the Spartans to tie the score, then Gabe Brown scored on a fast break to give MSU the lead for good.

Detroit continued to battle, but the combination of Julius Marble, Aaron Henry, and Gabe Brown all picked up their games in the final minutes. The Spartans led by only two points with just over a minute to play, but a fast break dunk by Marble, followed by a corner three from Brown sealed the fate of the Titans.

Josh Langford sat the game out with an apparent sore knee and as a result true freshman A.J. Hoggard saw his first non-garbage time minutes of the year. Hoggard showed some aggression on several drives to the basket as well as on defense and finished the game with four points.

Joey Hauser also saw limited minutes and emerged from halftime with a wrap on his knee. Hauser finished with 10 points and five rebounds, but seemed to struggle moving his feet on defense and only logged 19 minutes total. Until the emergence of Marble late, none of MSU’s frontcourt players played a particularly great game, and Tom Izzo tried all of them, including freshman Mady Sissoko for a first half shift. Malik Hall managed five points and five rebounds, but the combination of Thomas Kithier, Marcus Bingham, and Sissoko combined for only two points and two rebounds (all from Kithier).

Aaron Henry did not have a great night from the field, going four-for-11 overall and missing his only three-point attempt. But he did accumulate 12 points, 10 boards, six assists, three steals, and a block to go with three turnovers. Henry was limited somewhat with foul trouble and only logged 29 minutes.

But, the marquee match-up of the evening was Rocket Watts versus Titans’ star (and former Indiana and current Detroit coach Mike Davis’s son) Antoine Davis. In 30 minutes, Rocket put up a team high 23 points on eight-of-14 shooting, including one-for-four from the long line. On the stat sheet, Davis did outscore Rocket by a point. Davis single-handily almost willed the Titans to victory, making tough shot after tough shot late despite Rocket’s usual stellar defense.

It will be a quick turn around for the Spartans as they return to action Sunday evening at 6 p.m. when the Broncos of Western Michigan visit the Breslin Center. Stay tuned to The Only Colors for continuing coverage as MSU basketball.