The Michigan State men’s basketball team returned to action on Tuesday night looking to get back into the win column, and the Spartans did just that.
Michigan State defeated No. 4 Kentucky 86-77 in double overtime to improve to 2-1 on the season.
“It was a big program win, not an individual win,” Michigan State head coach Izzo said after the win.
Last Friday, Michigan State led No. 2 Gonzaga for a large majority of the second half, but ultimately lost the game by a final score of 64-63. The story was the opposite on Tuesday as the Spartans were trailing for a majority of the second half.
“The other night we led for 16 minutes in the second half and didn’t win,” Izzo said about the Gonzaga game. “It’s about what you do at the end.”
The Spartans had a couple of inbounds plays that led to crucial baskets.
Junior guard A.J. Hoggard found a cutting Malik Hall (senior forward) for the easy dunk to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Hoggard floated a half-court pass to senior guard Tyson Walker (which actually started with Walker inbounding the ball to Hoggard on the baseline), who found Hall. Hall faked a pass to sophomore guard Jaden Akins in the corner and drove to the basket for an easy dunk.
“The full court thing is something we work on daily,” Izzo said. “Tyson (Walker) did a great job finding Malik (Hall).
“I’m so proud of my staff,” Izzo said. “There were some great out of bounds plays.”
Hall scored those two crucial dunks at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime.
“They were just reads, honestly,” Hall said. “I just happened to be the one that was open, and I made the right reads.”
Graduate senior forward Joey Hauser was the Spartans’ leading scorer on the day with 23 points. Junior center Mady Sissoko posted 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Sissoko also played with four fouls for the last 3:53 of regulation and all of overtime.
“He made some big-time plays,” Izzo said about Hauser.
“He just did a hell of a job,” Izzo said about Sissoko. “Guys are just so happy for him and so am I.”
Interesting stat from tonight. Here were the +/- values for the Michigan State centers:— Brendan Moore (@bmoorecfb) November 16, 2022
Mady Sissoko: 7
Jaxon Kohler: 1
Carson Cooper: -8
The difference Mady makes down low is noticeable and the stats back that up.
Sissoko is gaining respect from his teammates as well.
“He’s done an unbelievable job,” Hauser said about Sissoko. “He’s had to defend two of the best bigs in the country (Gonzaga’s Drew Timme and Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe).”
While Michigan State turned the ball over 18 times, the Spartans forced 15 turnovers from Kentucky. The Wildcats only shot 39 percet from the field and 28 percent from three-point land.
“Defensively, they were pretty damn good,” Izzo said about his team’s defensive performance.
As mentioned, turnovers were a concern throughout the game for Michigan State. Hoggard had five of MSU’s 18 turnovers, which was the highest on the team.
“I feel like I got to do a better job taking care of the ball and just understanding and figuring out the situations that I’m in that caused me to turn the ball over and just learn from there,” Hoggard said.
Hoggard took care of the ball better in the two overtime periods.
“I thought A.J. (Hoggard) got a little slack with the ball and he took a lot of blame for it in that locker room,” Izzo said. “He just can’t do that.”
The main concern for the Spartans going into the game was how they would handle Kentucky senior forward/center Oscar Tshiebwe.
Sissoko matched up often with Tshiebwe and noted that he was a “great player.”
Then, Izzo went on to note that Kentucky “will be a great team.” He also told Kentucky fans to not “jump off the ship.”
There is increased confidence in the Michigan State locker room after the win.
“I think it shows that we can play with anybody,” Hoggard said.
“We’re here,” Hauser said. “We’ll take on anyone.”
Despite the big win, Izzo is putting it in perspective.
“We haven’t accomplished nothing yet,” Izzo said. “We won a big game against a team that’s been a little hurt.”
Michigan State’s next game will be back at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Spartans will take on Villanova. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.