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MSU Handles Hillsdale in Exhibition Opener

In the one “easy” exhibition tilt, we find a team with a whole lot of promise

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Media Days Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Even after getting drenched walking up to the Breslin Center, it was certainly a beautiful night for basketball in East Lansing.

The Spartans obliterated Hillsdale 85-43 on a night where MSU took the lead from the first possession and never looked back, nearly doubling up the Chargers. Even with the demolition, Hillsdale’s strong offensive rebounding was the one disappointment Tom Izzo made sure to mention after the game as a point of emphasis going forward.

In the enviable position of having a solid core from a Sweet Sixteen team returning, Tom Izzo added a handful of exciting freshmen to the roster this season, and they made their presence known on Wednesday night. Ever the demanding veteran coach, Tom Izzo made sure to note that “A couple of them got lost,” in the postgame press conference.

After starting the game with the familiar lineup of Tyson Walker, AJ Hoggard, Jaden Akins, Mady Sissoko, and Malik Hall, Izzo substituted three of his freshmen - Jeremy Fears Jr, Xavier Booker, and Coen Carr along with sophomores Carson Cooper and Tre Holloman in the first in-game experiment in finding the right ratio of minutes to talent. While this was the case tonight, Izzo made sure to emphasize “There’ll be no hockey game here,” and the 5 for 5 line changes won’t continue as games begin to count and competition gets stronger. In the early part of the schedule, we can expect more experimentation with different combinations as the coaching staff attempts to work 9-10 players into the rotation.

Tyson Walker and Carson Cooper led the Spartans in points and rebounds, with each tallying 13 and 7 respectively. Cooper added a pair of blocks, in a statement night for the sophomore from Jackson. “Cooper was the star tonight, he played really well,” Izzo added from the podium.

Aside from Walker and Cooper, Coen Carr and Jaden Akins crossed the double digit threshold in points, adding 12 and 10. Tre Holloman, often the forgotten man in the prognosticating on this team, added 9 points off the bench and a poise that the highly touted freshmen needed in their Breslin debut.

Of the freshmen, none bring the flash quite like Coen Carr. Carr, the Georgia native who idolizes Julius Erving did Dr J proud in his Breslin Center debut, slamming at least three home as part of his 12 points on the night. His YouTube hype preceding him, Carr’s first dunk early in the first half was one of the loudest moments of the evening, as the home crowd saw in green and white what they’ve seen on YouTube for more than a year. Whenever Carr had the ball, it almost felt like we were all collectively taken back to Holt High School and the Moneyball Pro-Am, where Carr piled up highlight reel level dunks.

Steven Izzo, in his final year on MSU’s roster, hit a pair of free throws late in the second half, and was awarded the game ball in the locker room postgame.

Hillsdale is the only low level exhibition opponent on MSU’s schedule this season, as Tennessee comes to the Breslin Center on Sunday for a charity game to benefit the Maui Strong Fund, aiding victims of this summer’s wildfires in Maui. That game tips off Sunday afternoon at 3:30.