Michigan State rolled over Alcorn State in an early season “tune-up” style game. The Spartans came out firing, and after some early misses they started connecting on their shots. They finished the game shooting over 50% overall and from the three point line.
This game featured highlight reel plays and valuable minutes for players like Xavier Booker learning to adjust to the college game. The grades look pretty good in this one.
Details of the Curve for this Game: Alcorn State has some veteran players and tied for their conference title last year. They are also a reminder that college basketball has clear different levels, even within division one. This is not a team that was expected to challenge the Spartans at all. Even after Michigan State was beaten by James Madison and looked a little shaky in their other “tune-up” style games against Southern Indiana, this game was expected to be a blowout.
The shooting woes showed up immediately. In the early going, Jaden Akins, Malik Hall and AJ Hoggard all missed open threes. The shot missing carried over to the line. The good news was they were getting to the line.
Luckily, the shooting woes didn’t last. Akins got it going in transition with a big three. Then back to back threes from Holloman kicked open the game. If Holloman can become a pure shooter, it could be a huge lift to the overall production for this team.
As the Spartans started pulling away, Alcorn State rolled out a zone. It slowed the younger unit on the floor a lot. Even AJ Hoggard looked a bit confused. They struggled to get the ball moving, but found a counter by getting Xavier Booker open for threes. He hit one of two. Holloman joined that party a few possessions later.
By the 8-minute timeout in the first half this game was a laugher. MSU had a 27 point lead and every single Spartan was rolling. Even Mady Sissoko got in on the offensive onslaught. The most encouraging part of the offense was Tre Holloman going 4/4 from three.
Alcorn State is clearly not in the same physical league as MSU. Still seeing Holloman go from a guy who took less than five shots in the second half of his Freshman year to making four three pointers is an impressive and valuable evolution.
For as good as Michigan State played through the first 14-minutes of the first half, the final six minutes saw them fail to make a single field goal. Yes, this can be blamed on the nearly 30-point lead. The problem is the team cannot get comfortable with scoring droughts like that. Alcorn State sticking to zone and working in some full court press had the Spartans looking rushed and out of sorts.
The shooting touch returned as Tre Holloman started asserting his will. A fifth three pointer; an end of shot clock move to create his own shot (he missed it, but the effort was impressive and confident); and a great drive for a layup showed an array of moves.
The offense kept flowing from there. Coen Carr continued to demonstrate that he is a better athlete than almost anyone he is playing against. It was particularly obvious in a matchup like this. The dunk he threw down midway through the second half will be replayed for a while.
The only highlight that will compete with Carr was an off the backboard pass by Holloman to a sky high Jeremy Fears for a two handed dunk.
The Spartans did almost everything you want from a team offensively. The only reason this grade is dinged at all was that stretch to close the first half was simply too poor to be ignored.
Offense Grade: A-
Alcorn State had no chance early on. Michigan State was in front of every drive, was contesting every dribble and forcing Alcorn State to miss shot after shot. The Spartan defense sparked a dominant transition offense for the first ten minutes of the game.
The Spartans kept the intensity up on the defensive end throughout the first half. Even as they took the foot off the gas for offense, the defense was holding Alcorn State in check.
After a few early slips in the second half, the Spartans locked in and held Alcorn State to almost nothing in the second half. Their leading scorer fouled out with only 11 points, and the team as a whole was shooting around 25%. MSU controlled this game in almost every facet and they still stayed focused on defense.
Defense Grade: A
Early transition helped open the game up. MSU struggled in the half court on the first few possessions then got their early scoring in transition. Particularly transition threes helped the Spartan offense get going. It’s been a struggle this year shooting from deep and getting rolling early. In this game the answer was clearly get the ball moving as quickly as possible.
The second group came in at the 16-minute mark and showed defensive grit. Holloman got in the way of a driving Alcorn State player and stopped the drive cold. Jeremy Fears contributed a play later with a steal that turned into a layup.
For the first ten minutes of the game Michigan State simply dominated the game in transition.
After the Spartans built a nearly 30 point lead they clearly slowed the transition down. That is logical, the problem was it left the Spartans looking directionless on offense. This is a group that needs that faster ball movement and pressure offense. It’s clear as the transition goes for the Spartans so too does the game.
The Spartans came out in the second half looking to push the ball but it was Alcorn State that ruled the transition early on. It was bad enough in the first two minutes Tom Izzo called a quick timeout to chew everyone out - particularly AJ Hoggard.
Alcorn State tried to get back on defense better in the second half. It slowed MSU down a bit, but there were simply too many transition opportunities for Michigan State. Unlike in some recent games the Spartans mostly converted those opportunities and built a few highlight reel plays along the way.
Transition Grade: A
This was a game Michigan State would most likely have won without a coach on the sideline. There was simply too much talent on the MSU roster for Alcorn State to keep up. That doesn’t mean this wasn’t a well coached game.
Tom Izzo had this team prepared. It may have helped that Walker was out sick - a change like that can focus a team. Either way, a team that could have come in and slept through this game started strong and ended strong.
Izzo used this game the way he loves to use early season tune ups - to test out lineups. This game had plenty of non-traditional lineups and may have even found a few that could work. It also allowed him to get 19 minutes for Xavier Booker.
The end result was positive. The Spartans won the first half and the second half and Izzo was finding teachable moments throughout.
Coaching Grade: A
Domination. That was what was expected and what was seen. Michigan State shut down Alcorn State’s offense. Their own offense got rolling, and they ran the floor to dominate transition 25-7.
Steven Izzo was on the floor with more than two minutes left. That is the indicator you need to know how well things went.
MSU kept their focus through most of the game. That can be a challenge when up nearly 30-points. Yet, the Spartans won the second half, proving they were not letting up.
The younger players got plenty of minutes, and even if they struggled at times they also had plenty of highlights. This was a get right game in every single possible way.
Overall Grade: A