The Michigan State men’s basketball returned to the Breslin Center on Wednesday night, as the Spartans unofficially opened up the 2021-2022 season with a 92-58 victory in an exhibition game over Ferris State on Wednesday. In the postgame press conference, head coach Tom Izzo said that while the team did a lot of good things on the floor in the win, the Spartans still have things to work on for the future.
“For a first game, we did some good things,” Izzo said. “I think we’re showing that we’re a lot different team than last year and we got a long, long way to go.”
One of the bright spots for the Spartans was the performance of freshman shooting guard Max Christie. Christie, a five-star recruit, was expected to make an impact as a freshman and certainly delivered in his first unofficial game as a Spartan, scoring 17 points. When asked about Christie, Izzo said he has been working hard to improve his strength and aggressiveness during practice.
“He had a hell of a summer in the weight room,” Izzo said about Christie. “I think confidence comes with strength and he’s driving the ball better, he’s handling the ball better...I was impressed.”
Christie’s new teammates also gave him much praise for his efforts. When asked about Christie, senior forward Gabe Brown simply said, “That boy gets baskets.”
Brown was another bright spot for the Spartans, leading the team with 19 points, including several big time dunks. Coach Izzo spoke on his athletic putbacks, saying he thinks Brown has incredible potential on the offensive glass.
“The tip dunk was a big deal to us because he hasn’t been a guy that’s gone to the offensive boards and I think he could be as good as anybody we’ve had,” Izzo said regarding Brown.
When asked about Brown, Christie said he has played a big role in helping him progress as a player throughout this past offseason.
“Gabe (Brown) has helped a lot,” Christie said. “He’s our senior...he’s this fourth-year guy in my position, so I’ve really looked at him — how he works out, how he does his things and how he gets his shots, and just what he does because that’s someone I want to be like.”
One of the biggest questions for Michigan State going into this season was at point guard, where transfer junior Tyson Walker was expected to make a large impact. During the game, Walker and sophomore A.J. Hoggard both played meaningful minutes at the point, showing flashes of potential for both to lead the offense. When asked about the point guard play, Izzo said that despite the number of turnovers committed, he liked the production from Walker and Hoggard.
“He (Walker) introduced some great passes...I do believe that he played pretty well and you didn’t even get to see him take a shot, and he’s a very good shooter,” Izzo said. “On the other hand, I thought A.J. (Hoggard) did some good things too, he rebounded a little better...Between them, nine assists is great, but the turnovers weren’t good enough.”
Wednesday’s game was an important one for both fans and players, as it was the first time fans have been able to watch the Spartans play in person in nearly two years. Redshirt senior Joey Hauser said the players enjoyed playing in front of a home crowd and the Izzone once again.
“It was good to have people back and have the energy of the crowd affect the game,” Hauser said. “It’s something that I haven’t played in front of in a long time.”
Michigan State has one more exhibition game scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. against Grand Valley State. The regular season kicks off at Madison Square Garden in New York City against the Kansas Jayhawks on Nov. 9.