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Champions Classic Recap: Michigan State loses season opener to Kansas, 87-74

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Michigan State Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball team kicked off the 2021-2022 season against the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks in New York CIty’s Madison Square Garden for the Champions Classic event, and it did not go MSU’s way. The Jayhawks defeated the Spartans by a final score of 87 to 74 on Tuesday night.

The first half was closely-contested. Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji got the scoring going with a three-pointer, and that was a sign of things to come from him, as Agbaji finished the game with 29 points.

Both teams struggled to make baskets early, and at the under-16-minute mark of the first half, the game was tied at just 6-6. The scoring picked up a bit after that, and the Spartans led the Jayhawks 17-16 at the under-12-minute media timeout. Freshman shooting guard Max Christie made a three-pointer for his first career basket as a Spartan during that stretch.

During the next four-minute stretch, Christie hit another shot from behind the arc, and Marcus Bingham Jr. made a jump hook, and the Spartans led 22-21. After the under-eight-minute media timeout, the teams went back-and-forth, as A.J. Hoggard made a couple of driving layups for the Spartans.

With under four minutes to play in the first half, Kansas held a slim lead at 32-31. However, the Jayhawks would end the first half on a 9-1 scoring run and took a 39-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Hoggard led Michigan State at the half with eight points and three assists, while Christie and Julius Marble had six points each. Bingham had four points, five rebounds and a block, while Marble chipped in four rebounds and a block as well. Kansas shot 45 percent from the floor, while Michigan State was close behind at a 44 percent clip.

While Michigan State hung tough in the first half, the second half was dominated by Kanas. The Jayhawks outscored the Spartans 48-42 in the last 20 minutes, and never relinquished the lead.

With under 16 minutes to play in the half, the game was well within reach for the Spartans, as the Jayhawks held the slight lead at 48-45. However, by the next media timeout with 11:53 to play, Kansas’ lead swelled to 61-50, thanks mainly to Agbaji and fellow guard Remy Martin.

Kansas would extend its lead to 15 wit 9:33 to play at 69-54, and also held a 15-point lead at the under-eight-minute media timeout at 71-56.

Malik Hall would then hit a three-pointer for his first and only points of the game, but MSU continued its struggles on both ends of the court after that, as Kansas’ lead would balloon to 16 points with 6:06 left to play at 77-61, and was then at 81-68 at the under-four-minute media timeout.

Michigan State would fight until the end, but ultimately was not competitive with Kansas in the season opener.

In what has seemingly become an unfortunate staple of Michigan State teams under Tom Izzo as of late, the Spartans struggled with turnovers. MSU had 16 turnovers in the game, while Kansas only had nine.

The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor, including 35 percent from three-point range. Michigan State shot 44 percent on field goals, and also shot 35 percent from deep. Kansas was also much better from the free-throw line and got more attempts there. The Jayhawks knocked down 19 of 24 shots (79 percent) from the charity stripe, compared to just a 56 percent effort from the Spartans at the free-throw line, as MSU made just nine shots on 16 attempts.

Hoggard led the Spartans in scoring with 17 points off of the bench, making eight shots on 13 attempts — including a three-pointer. He also led MSU in assists with four, and had a steal. Hoggard seemed to outplay starting point guard Tyson Walker. Walker, the Northeastern transfer, struggled with just two points — attempting just three shots and making one of those. Walker also had three assists, three turnovers and a steal.

Marble finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and a block, while Bingham had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Gabe Brown scored 10 points while Christie added nine points.

For Kansas, Agbaji led all scorers with his 29 points. Martin had 15 points and six boards, while David McCormack chipped in 10 points, two rebounds and two blocks.

Michigan State will look to bounce back against the Western Michigan Broncos at home in the Breslin Center on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.