The Michigan State Spartans returned to the hardwood tonight after a five-day break to work off the Thanksgiving food coma that had inflicted the team for a portion of the Arizona game. A matchup against the 0-6 Georgia Southern Eagles was probably just what the Spartans needed to start to right the ship.
The pregame included news that Tom Izzo had made some changes to the starting five, with Mady Sissoko taking the center spot back from Carson Cooper and, more surprisingly, Tre Holloman starting for AJ Hoggard. Mady contributed immediately, winning the opening jump-ball, and Tyson Walker hit a three-pointer on the first possession. On the next MSU possession, Mady showed off a post move and scored a bucket. Perhaps he wants to make sure he keeps the starting job this time. Unfortunately for him, he was whistled for a travel on the next trip down. Early on, Georgia Southern scored twice off of dribble drives, something that would be a theme this evening. On the other hand, MSU ball handlers repeatedly got cut off trying the same thing. Before the end of the first segment, Sissoko drew a foul down low and earned a trip to the line where he sunk both his freebies. Sparty was up 7-4 at the first commercial.
Coming back, Akins was at the line to shoot FTs for a foul from before the break, and he would split the pair. Carson Cooper, now in the game, gets his first stat with a blocked shot. But Xavier Booker would then get his own shot blocked on the other end. Jaden Akins hit a triple to get on the board. Then we saw another bad defensive effort from Booker as his assignment blew by him on the way for a dunk. At the 13:30 mark, Izzo put AJ Hoggard into the game for the first time. Jeremy Fears hit a runner, and then Mady blocked a shot into the crowd. AJ Hoggard tried to get the Breslin crowd energized with an alley-oop attempt to Coen Carr, but he would get fouled on the attempt and would miss both FTs. After a deeeeeep 3 by the Eagles and a Malik Hall turnaround jumper on the baseline, MSU led 15-9 at the second commercial.
Malik would resume the scoring with another turnaround. On MSU’s next possession, a pass zipped through Hoggard’s hands and out of bounds. The camera panned to Izzo, who was looking unimpressed. But then MSU began a bit of a run. Cooper tipped in a Walker miss to get the lead to ten. Fears sunk a short pullup shot. The lead was 21-9 at the under-8.
BTN was showing a clip of the introduction ceremony of new MSU football coach, Jonathan Smith, that happened on the Breslin floor just before the game. And when the game resumed, Cooper caught an alley-oop from Walker. He tried another oop on the next possession, but GSU was able to defend it. No worries though as Tre Holloman would feed Akins with an alley-oop shortly thereafter, and then Walker scored on some circus/euro-step thing. Georgia Southern then scored to end a scoreless drought that was approaching 8 minutes. The Spartans would answer though, first with Sissoko showing another post move, going to his right hand, and then Walker with a crossover move to get the open J. MSU was up 31-11 at the under-4.
To start the final segment, Hall got fouled on a drive, and he split the pair, but MSU gets the rebound and Hall promptly got fouled again and split again. During the break in the action, the commentators told a nice story about GSU’s Malik Tidwell, who was now at his fifth college, but first at the D1 level. And then on MSU’s next possession, Malik Hall got back to the line again, and made one of two again. Then, after another defensive stop, Hall went with the long ball up to Hoggard who caught it and got to the basket for the layup. Somehow this was only MSU’s 2nd fast break basket to that point. AJ got fouled on the next possession on another transition attempt, and he made both from the stripe. On defense, Akins joined the block party. But GSU would get revenge, blocking a late shot from Hall, and Hoggard’s attempt at the buzzer did not get off in time, and missed anyway. MSU had a halftime lead of 38-11 thanks to a 25-2 run to end the first.
At the break, MSU had a lead in rebounds, blocks, turnovers, and fouls. Amazingly, MSU only committed three first half fouls. The Spartans had assists on 11 of 14 FGs.
Georgia Southern earned a trip to the line and sank two free throws to open 2nd half scoring. Then Mady had the ball stolen and GSU got right to the hole for a layup. MSU would get their first 2nd half points courtesy of a goaltending call. Tyson scored on a drive on the next time down only for the Eagles to come right back and score down low. Having given up 8 points already this half, Izzo called a timeout to yell at his team. After the huddle, Hall collected a pair of offensive rebounds off a pair of Walker misses, and Hoggard ultimately got fouled, only to (tell me if you’ve heard this before about this team) split the FTs. Akins chipped in a crossover J next for MSU. On the ensuing possession, GSU got inside for the basket, then stole the inbounds pass and scored again. 16 of their 23 points were scored in the paint. MSU led 45-23 at the under-16.
After the commercial, the two teams traded baskets. Walker hit a jumper off the inbounds pass. Then the Eagles hit a three. Hoggard got inside and scored between three defenders. GSU scored again with a pullup in the paint. Hall used the pump fake and drained a pull up shot. We finally saw a defensive play when Hoggard got a steal. He took it up court and dropped it to Holloman for the layup. After this, MSU’s defense started to amp back up and the lid got put back on the GSU basket. Just before the next TV timeout, Sissoko hit a floater and then threw down a thunderdunk on the next trip to get to ten points on the night. The lead was up to 30, 58-28.
Next up, we saw Akins score on consecutive possessions, but then he had a turnover trying to pass along the baseline under the basket on the next trip. Fears showed off a beautiful crossover to get down the lane where he picked up the foul and hit both FTs. He would then pull down his 10th rebound. A couple minutes later, Booker got on the board with a three from the top of the key. GSU answers with a 3 of their own. And AJ Hoggard scored high off the glass and got fouled on the drive to take the game to the under-8 with MSU up 71-35. He would convert the FT after the timeout.
A couple minutes into the next segment, Walker lost his man on an inbounds play on the baseline and gave up an easy layup which led to Izzo calling timeout and taking Walker out. Even up over thirty points, he was still coaching. It definitely felt like Georgia Southern was getting into an offensive rhythm down the stretch. It was silenced a bit when Tre hit a trey from the corner, his first from deep on the night. Davis Smith checked in before the break and missed a three, keeping the score at 79-45 at the last break.
Barry Sanders got some screen time as BTN came back from commercial. He is the greatest ever. Back to the game, Holloman sunk a pair from the line. Then (tell me if you’ve heard this before) Booker got lost on D and gave up a dunk. Davis Smith made us forget about that when he nailed a triple. Steven Izzo and Nick Sanders came in with 1:43 left. Izzo tried to take it inside, only to get blocked shooting in between 3 Eagles. Smith would add 2 FTs to improve his career high. Izzo missed a 3, but MSU gets it back. However, the ball did not get back to Izzo, and the game ended 86-55.
Victory For MSU!!
3 Things I Liked:
- Fears Jumping. The freshman collected ten rebounds tonight, all on the defensive side.
- Holloman Passing. Making his second career start, and first as the starting PG, he had ten assists.
- Interior Offense. Mady Sissoko was 4-4 plus 2-2 from the line. Carson Cooper was 2-4 plus 1-2 from the line. I’ve been asking for plays inside. Granted this was inferior competition than Arizona and Duke, it is still nice to see that they were looking to go inside early and often. Keep this up, please.
3 Things I Did Not Like:
- Hoggard moved to bench. Listen, it probably was warranted. But I do not like the fact that seven games into his senior year, AJ needs this kind of a coaching lesson to get him straightened out. I imagine he will be back in the starting 5 by the next game.
- Free Throw Struggles. 19-30 overall. Malik Hall was 5-10. That’s not good.
- Steven Izzo shot selection. Maybe he was trying to draw a foul, but I don’t think it is his best move to dribble into triple coverage and then try to shoot over a bunch of defenders that don’t need to jump to block his shot. I was okay with the triple try, but I want him to shoot 100 threes everyday at practice.