Point 1: Tyson Walker can light it up. He can also disappear. Tonight he did both.
Tyson Walker is a scoring machine. He is also an unselfish, team first, point guard who plays great defense and puts his teammates in position to excel. This is both the incredible value in Tyson Walker and the sometimes mysterious element to his game.
There are games (or halves in this case) where Walker takes over the scoring. His 16 points in the first half were THE difference in this game.
When Walker was scoring in the first half, so was MSU overall. MSUs droughts (more on that in point 2) coincided with Walker not putting the ball up. In the second half, MSU played Nebraska essentially even up - or even trailed (by second half points) - while Walker went from hot scoring threat to “just another guy” on the court.
Now, Walker is an exceptional “just another guy on the court”, he plays with intensity and his defense cannot be overlooked. So when Walker disappears from the scoring column, he still contributes. The problem is MSU is strangely lacking for point production this year, and when Walker is NOT throwing up shots it hurts the team overall.
The story on Walker as a scorer has consistently been the same: he needs to shoot more. It’s almost hard to fathom that a player that puts up 14 shots needs to hunt MORE for their shot, but that is absolutely the case for Walker.
Walker is such a good team member, and understands the flow of the game so well that his desire to play within himself, and within the offense, is sometimes frustrating. He can appear to let the adage of “take what the game gives you” to a crippling max.
MSU needs point production. They are in the bottom quarter of all Big Ten Teams for points scored per game. In a game where AJ Hoggard couldn’t buy a basket, the team needed Tyson Walker to step up. He did. Let’s be clear, 21 points is a massive night.
The question is how many more 16-minute droughts of Walker scoring, like they saw in the second half, can MSU thrive through. It’s unrealistic to suggest/want Walker turn into a 25+ point per game scorer, but hunting his shot a bit more on a night where he was so hot should be a priority moving forward.
Point 2: Scoring droughts were survived tonight, they won’t be down the road
The Spartans went through a few rough patches shooting. Similar to their blowout win against Buffalo last week, MSU started each half relatively cold (admittedly, the first half of this game was a LOT hotter than last week’s, but the point still stands).
MSU has a lot of guys that can shoot, and more than a few guys that can create their own shot. Both welcome changes from some other years. The mystery is where these players go for stretches of games.
Akins finished with 9 points and Hauser with 10. Both solid performances, particularly adding in the rest of their stat lines. Akins finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Overall a completely solid effort. Hauser finished with 10 points and added 10 rebounds (Tied for the team lead with Sissoko’s 10). Both stat lines MSU will take on almost any night.
Sissoko only scoring 5 (at the moment his value is in defense and rebounding) and Hall only putting up five coming back from injury are both understandable - if still disappointing. The real concern was Hoggard’s offense just disappearing. AJ found ways to influence the game, with a game leading 9 assists and 3 rebounds, but the low point total (4 points) is notable. Particularly as MSU looked like they were bullying Nebraska off the court at times.
Beyond the point totals per player, the timing of the points raises concerns. Nebraska was never able to put together a long run during MSUs droughts. Other teams will not be so kind. MSU is generally finding balance in point production, they need to work on balancing the production throughout the game.
Point 3: Kohler may finally have had the breakout he needed
Sometimes 10 points is just 10 points (see Hauser’s stat line). Other times, 10 points is a veritable explosion.
Jaxon Kohler came to MSU with an offensive pedigree and a defensive question mark. In this game, he still wore that question mark loud and proud on defense. In contrast, for the first time the offense seemed to click.
At times this season, Kohler has shown exceptional offensive footwork and positioning for a freshman. There have been turn around jump shots that went up clean that looked fantastic. Until tonight, those shots went up pretty and more often than not clanged down hard as ugly misses. It felt like Kohler came to college and realized the rims were 11-feet off the ground not 10 feet.
Tonight something changed. Kohler had a few turn around jumpers that went in clean. He handled a couple hot passes that gave him a great run to the rim - and he converted them. It’s way too early to assume this will happen regularly. It is a sign that it CAN happen. And sometimes, with a freshman struggling to adapt to the college game, that can be more important.
Agree? Disagree? Take your shot in the comments.