In the bowels of the Breslin Center after the opening night upset at the hands of James Madison, Tom Izzo had hoped his Spartans would take the loss as a wake up call, even if the team shouldn’t need it.
Tuesday night’s loss to Duke shows that MSU needs to avoid the snooze button.
In the Champions Classic, this year in Chicago, the Spartans found themselves against their perpetual nemesis from Durham in the first matchup between Tom Izzo and Jon Scheyer. Scheyer, the 36 year old in his second season at the helm of the Blue Devils was looking to bounce back from a home loss to future MSU opponent Arizona. MSU meanwhile, looked to find itself after a strange stretch to start the season, with a loss to James Madison and a victory over Southern Indiana. In both games, the Spartans’ shooting was poor, especially from three point range.
At the United Center, the Spartans were able to fix some of their issues against a major upgrade in competition. Malik Hall, the much maligned forward whose struggles have been a major point of contention through the exhibition games and the first two regular season contests, looked much better against Duke. Hall finished with 18 points in 26 minutes along with 3 rebounds. Not a perfect game, but an improvement. Three point shooting warmed up from the ice cold start to the season, as the Spartans hit 6 from deep, including 3 from Tyson Walker. Again, not perfect, but a step in the right direction.
The early stages of the game were tight, as MSU led for much of the early portion of the first half, but once Duke took a 13-12 lead with 7:13 left in the half, the Blue Devils never looked back. Late in the second half, Tyson Walker and Malik Hall would each bring the Spartans within 3 points three separate times, but no closer. Duke would ultimately win 74-65.
As is always the case against Duke, the “Duke Whistle” was in full effect, as the Blue Devils went to the free throw line for 30 attempts, while the Spartans attempted.....12. While not the sole difference between the two teams, it’s always a story against Duke, and tonight was no different.
While Malik Hall had a bounce-back game, the center position struggled. Mady Sissoko did not play well, with 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 turnovers, while struggling with ball handling and a general lack of steadiness on his feet. Carson Cooper fared a little better, scoring 4 points and grabbing 8 boards before fouling out late in the going. Coen Carr added one spectacular dunk to tally his only points on the night, and fellow freshman Jeremy Fears had a quiet night in the stat sheet. AJ Hoggard, a key for any success MSU will have against teams like Duke, only scored 2 points to go with 8 assists.
The Spartans have a pair of home games against Butler and Alcorn State before traveling to the California desert for a Thanksgiving Day showdown against Arizona, the next power on the schedule.