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Michigan State Beats Oakland: Post Game Grades for The Spartans

The Spartans hosted their in-state peers from Oakland University and dominated. The grades reflect a game that inspires promise for the season.

NCAA Basketball: Oakland at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State showcased their newfound offensive rhythm and defensive pressure, dominating their opponent in all three phases of the game for the second consecutive match. The final score of 79-62 in favor of Michigan State belies the actual extent of their control; they led by 25 points with 8 minutes remaining, effectively reducing the game’s conclusion to extended garbage time.

Details of the Curve for this Game: While Michigan State’s performance was impressive, it’s important to contextualize it against the Golden Grizzlies’ capabilities. Although Oakland consistently challenges Michigan State, their roster doesn’t quite match the Spartans’ talent depth, especially in the starting lineup.

Offense:

Initially, Michigan State’s offense appeared hesitant, contrasting sharply with their assertive start against Baylor. The team struggled against Oakland’s zone defense, a historically challenging setup for MSU, leading to some uncertainty in ball movement.

AJ Hoggard’s early performance included a turnover and contributed to other ineffective possessions, drawing Coach Izzo’s attention for apparent confusion in navigating the zone.

Positively, Mady Sissoko and Jaden Akins were notably active, contributing early scores and aggressively pursuing rebounds at both ends. The second unit, led by Tre Holloman’s deep three-pointer, injected energy, with Holloman emerging as a reliable bench scorer.

When the starters returned, the offense stagnated, marked by Hoggard’s uncertain drives and ambiguous floaters or alley-oop attempts to Carson Cooper. This indicated underlying issues, albeit sporadic.

The second half saw improved shooting, with Walker and Holloman making key contributions. Holloman’s extended play in place of Akins added another layer of shooting prowess, facilitating smoother offensive flow and extending the lead to 15 points.

The offensive confidence grew in the latter half, effectively dismantling Oakland’s zone defense. Late-game scoring was widespread, with Hoggard and Akins hitting threes. Tyson Walker reached a milestone, scoring his 1,000th point as a Spartan amidst some forced shots.

In the final stages, the offense resembled playground basketball, a testament to the substantial lead. Jeremy Fears effectively managed the offense even with less conventional lineups, showcasing the team’s depth.

Overall, the offense shot nearly 50% and 43% from three-point range. This balanced scoring effort, with ten players scoring at least 4 points, including a combined 30 points and rebounds from centers Sissoko and Cooper, aligns with preseason expectations.

Offensive Grade: A

Defense:

Initially, the Spartans’ defense wasn’t as cohesive as in the previous game. Despite generally tight coverage on shooters and aggressive rebounding, there were lapses, such as Hoggard allowing an unchallenged three-pointer.

The second unit tightened up, limiting Oakland to one basket over approximately 5 minutes. However, when the starters returned, Oakland managed to narrow the gap, exploiting slight defensive openings, particularly in three-point coverage.

The defense, particularly from Holloman and Fears, was more effective towards the end of the first half, leading to transition opportunities for MSU.

In the second half, Spartan defense became more stringent, contributing to a comfortable 20-point lead. Oakland’s scoring was mostly limited to free throws and desperate three-point attempts.

Although the defense relaxed in the final minutes with a substantial lead, it was not a significant concern. The Spartans successfully held Oakland, known for their shooting prowess, to 36.5% from the field and 31% from three, including late-game long-range shots against MSU’s deeper bench.

Defensive Grade: A

Transition:

For much of the first half, transition opportunities were scarce, a noticeable shift from the game against Baylor. However, as the half progressed, particularly with the second unit on the floor, Jeremy Fears initiated a swift transition play to Walker, marking the start of an increase in fast-break points. Fears and Holloman’s defensive synergy effectively converted steals into scoring opportunities, stretching MSU’s lead to 9 points. The game’s momentum shifted significantly in the second half, with MSU’s depth and athleticism overwhelming Oakland. Coen Carr’s defensive prowess and dunking ability became highlights as MSU established a commanding 25-point lead with 8 minutes remaining. Michigan State accumulated 20 fast break points to Oakland’s 6, reflecting a solid performance, albeit with room for improvement, particularly in exploiting transition opportunities earlier against a less matched team.

Transition Grade: B+

Coaching:

Coach Izzo demonstrated increased confidence in his starters, delaying the first substitution until the under-16-minute timeout. The first half saw a strategic rotation pattern, with one player alternating in the second lineup consisting of Fears, Holloman, Carr, and Cooper. This pattern continued with the starters, with Cooper sharing time during the second extended run. Notably, Xavier Booker was absent in the first half, a point of contention for fans, especially following his contributions in the previous game.

The significant lineup adjustment in the second half was increased playtime for Holloman, enhancing the team’s shooting capability. Booker’s entry at the 13-minute mark, with MSU leading comfortably, allowed him some valuable game time, this time in his familiar power forward position. His early help-side block will fuel fan enthusiasm for the five-star recruit.

Izzo’s strategy in this game seemed focused on allowing the offense to find rhythm with longer personnel sets and providing Holloman crucial playtime for his emerging scoring role. The game underscored the sustainability of the defensive strategy employed against Baylor, potentially raising the team’s ceiling.

Coaching Grade: A

Overall:

Initially, MSU seemed unsettled by Oakland’s zone defense, particularly evident in Hoggard’s hesitancy and the starting lineup’s sporadic defensive performance. Despite these early challenges, the Spartans took control in the second half, with the game’s outcome never appearing in doubt. The offense was notably efficient, with 23 assists on 29 field goals, and balanced scoring with ten players notching at least 4 points. Defensively, the team effectively neutralized Oakland, leveraging key steals for transition points.

This dominant performance sustains the positive momentum from the Baylor victory, indicating a strong trajectory for the team.

Overall Grade: A

How do you grade Michigan State for this game?