clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Michigan State Fights Off Slow Start, Downs Indiana 80-65

Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard each score over 20 points, lead the way to victory

Indiana v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Hey everyone, hope you all enjoyed paczkis yesterday for Fat Tuesday. By the way, for those of you who do not speak French, Fat Tuesday is the literal translation of Mardi Gras; that blew my mind when I learned that a couple years ago, so I figured I would share it with you all. And speaking of things that were enjoyable yesterday, how about that game? I mean, I for one can’t believe that Texas A&M held on to beat Tennessee. In fact, I can’t believe I was stuck watching that game for as long as I was. Which brings me to my first point. Come on, ESPN. Stop programming games under the assumption that the first game of a doubleheader is going to finish in 2 hours. If you are giving a game national coverage, you need to know by now that there are going to be a whole bunch of stoppages and that game is running long. Start scheduling the second game to start 2 hours and 15 minutes, or even 2 hours and 30 minutes, after the start of the first game.

Now I know that all of us who were forced to watch that SEC tilt were dealt a big case of the ‘what-ifs’ while watching Julius Marble put up 21 and 9. But yes, of course, we are happy for him and fully support his transfer given the circumstances. Alright, let’s get down to the actual game we were interested in last night. By the time ESPN finally took us to East Lansing, over ten minutes of the MSU/Indiana game was already in the books, and MSU was trailing by seven points. Fortunately for us, the MSU broadcast team knew that the beginning of the game was not going to be televised, and so they slapped some tiny hardware on AJ Hoggard in order to capture a little ‘mic’d-up’ coverage. I was able to get a transcription of a pre-tipoff conversation between Hoggard and Tyson Walker from my connections at the Spartan athletic department. Here is what transpired:

AJ Hoggard: Hey, you hear the start of our game isn’t going to be televised?

Tyson Walker: No. Why? What up?

AH: I guess another game is still going on.

TW: That’s stupid. Should we mess around while we are not on? Give Coach some anxiety?

AH: Then we turn it on later, get the come-from-behind drama? I can probably turn it over a few times early, maybe throw Mady a bad lob.

TW: Ha! Yeah, that’s perfect. And what should I do? Should I start 0-3?

AH: Uhh, I think 0-4 would be better.

TW: Okay, I’ll miss 4. But then I am going off.

AH: Yeah, me too. Got to give the Izzone a night to remember.

So there you have it, Spartan fans. Our starting backcourt completely orchestrated that slow start. Being down 12-3 through 5 minutes and 22-13 at the under-8 was all done intentionally. The two guards were in control the whole time, and they knew they would be able to lead the come back from the early deficit they allowed themselves to get into. From that point on, MSU outscored the visiting team 67-43, which is quite impressive. In fact, judging by the eyeball test, this game was one of the Spartans’ very best performances this season (referring of course just to the part that was on ESPN). [Note: This writer does not have ESPNU access. I do know some/many of you were able to watch the beginning of the game, but for the sake of this article, I am believing most of you did not get to see it.]

So since I did not get to see all of last night’s actions, I am skipping the Game Flow Highlights that I usually start these articles with and am going straight to the lists of 3.

3 Things I Did Not Like (I am doing these backwards this time just to get this out of the way quickly):

  1. To be serious for a moment, I do have to say the slow start is my only major dislike from this game. Also, that conversation I transcribed above between Hoggard and Walker did not really happen; I made that up. While I did not get to see the early portion of the game that led to MSU’s deficit, I can see by the play-by-play on a certain website that Hoggard did have some early giveaways and that the rim had a bit of a lid on it, not just for Walker. I have to imagine that last night, the gravity of the situation may have contributed to the rough start and the emotions that they all must have been experienced had them playing tight. That said, it was certainly not a unique experience for this squad. I don’t know why this has repeatedly plagued this year’s team, but I hope that we don’t see it again as we go down the stretch into the tournaments. We can’t be playing with fire against the better teams in the nation. So hopefully Izzo figures out how to have this team mentally prepared from the get-go.
  2. No floor slaps. I am pretty sure we have only seen this team do its traditional smacking of the hardwood while setting up the defense right after a big offensive possession. There were a couple times last night where I was sure it would happen. It didn’t, though, and I don’t know why it has not been happening this year. Has Izzo forbidden his players from performing this ritual? How do we get this to be a thing again?
  3. Okay so by now my disdain for Joey Hauser should be known. Moving forward, my third dislike is just going to be a listing of all of his careless boneheaded plays that happen in the game. Yesterday, I saw two, but maybe there were more in the first ten minutes when I couldn’t watch. 1) Immediately following an Indiana 3 which brought MSU’s lead down to 10, Joey tossed the most lackadaisical of inbounds passes, completely disregarding the fact that a defender was already trying to get in front of Hoggard and putting no speed on the pass, so it was the easiest steal of Race Thompson’s career. About ten seconds later, Race was dropping the ball in the basket to get the lead down to 8, giving Indiana momentum, momentarily, and hopes of coming back. 2) About 5 minutes later, with the lead still in single digits, Hauser had the ball at the top of the key. He began driving down the left side of the lane towards the basket, and right before reaching a two-man wall in the post, he passed the ball to his open teammate in the corner. Unfortunately, Joey forgot to stop before running into, and through, one of these defenders and drawing the offensive foul. This one got Joey pulled from the game and earned him a lecture from Coach. The announcers were all over it; you got to do a jump-stop in those scenarios, Joey. Only two ‘Joeys’ last night, which isn’t bad.

3 Things I Liked:

  1. Short rotation. I know this was not totally by design, what with Carson Cooper being out with an injury. And Pierre Brooks simply does not have Izzo’s trust at this point to get any considerable playing time, particularly in a game where MSU falls behind early. So that essentially leaves an eight-man rotation. Perhaps those 8 knew ahead of time how many minutes they could expect to play. Maybe for Sissoko, Kohler, and Holloman, knowing that they were not going to get pulled so quickly allowed them to play a bit looser than usual and with a bit more confidence (though Kohler seems to always have plenty of that). Whatever it was, the entire Spartan delegation just seemed a bit more secure in their roles last night, like they all knew exactly what was expected of them, and they each went out and did it. One combo that seemed to be working particularly well last night was having Kohler, Hauser, and Hall out there together. This felt like the bizarro-world response to the small-ball lineup that doomed MSU against um over the weekend. I don’t know what this means moving forward. Does this spell even fewer minutes for Cooper when he returns? Is Brooks going to be sitting next to Whitens full time? If it means a performance like last night’s, then I am all for it.
  2. Energy. For the portion of the game I watched, it looked like everyone had a pep in their step. As a team, MSU dominated on the glass, winning that battle 33-24, including a 10-5 advantage on offensive rebounds. In addition, MSU defenders recorded 7 steals as part of the Hoosiers’ 13 turnovers. Individually, the two players I want to single out here are the two centers. I’ll start with Jaxon Kohler. His offense has mostly been there this season and his repertoire of post-moves is very impressive, though he is still not a volume shooter. What is more important at this point is how his defense has made vast improvements over the past couple of months. We don’t see as many instances of him in the wrong place as we used to. He is learning to get to his spots sooner and to be prepared for when his man gets the ball in the post. He is planting his feet, getting his arms straight up, and holding his ground to disrupt the shot. He chipped in a steal in this one, just his third of the season. Oh, and of course he nabbed 5 offensive rebounds, one which he put right up for a layup and another that resulted in a trip to the line for a teammate. He reminds me of a freshman Gabe Brown with his showmanship. At a whistle shortly after he helped MSU gain the lead that they would never relinquish, the camera had a zoom-in of Jaxon letting out a celebratory scream while a teammate was enthusiastically hitting his chest. This guy is having fun out there and it is only going to help his game. Mady gets an even bigger shout-out for the energy he brought last night. Let’s regurgitate this sequence again that started right around the 10-minute mark of the 2nd half: Loose ball rolling toward the sideline, Mady slides after it; Hoosier goes up for a layup, Mady volleyball spikes it, the ball pinballs off another Hoosier’s face and back to the Hoosier who shot it but was now standing on the baseline; Mady sprints back after not being able to corral an offensive rebound just in time to deflect a pass and prevent an easy score by TJD; and, just for good fun, I am going to add the one where Mady and Joey were fighting over a rebound and Mady knocked Joey on his a$$ for trying to steal his statistic. This is the Mady that can make the biggest difference for MSU, being the guy who just gets in the way, blocking shots and deflecting passes. At this point, I don’t think anyone expects him to score more than 6 in a game, and that would be on the high extreme. But so long as he finds other ways to contribute, then he is going to continue to earn about 20 minutes per contest.
  3. Hoggard and Walker played their best collective game of the season. We have seen Walker take over a few games this season. Hoggard has done it a couple times, though usually his biggest contributions to a game come from his distribution. This was the rare time where they both were dominating in their own way. Walker is easier to describe. His three-point game was Curryesque last night, and he added a couple of replay-worthy drives as well, one to his left and one to his right, with both going in off the high glass. Hoggard was more artistic. He truly is one of the best ball handlers in the college game. The way he can accelerate, decelerate, change directions, and weave among multiple defenders while not just keeping his dribble but also making it look easy is captivating. He often times makes defenders look silly trying to take the ball from him or impede his progress. We have seen a bunch of times lately where he did dribble his way into trouble or he drove to the basket only to get stuck trying an off-balance shot that ends with him on the ground. Perhaps this is why he has not been getting whistles from the refs. Last night, on the other hand, I don’t recall him ending up on the ground; rather, he was always in control. This led to him making more layups (or in other words, missing less) and also finally earning trips to the free-throw line, where he went 7 for 8. We always talk about an experienced, talented back court being the common thread of MSU’s best teams. If Hoggard and Walker can keep doing what they did last night, MSU has a backcourt as good as any other school in America.

Up Next: MSU travels to the plains to take on Iowa on Saturday at noon.

Bonus Section: Okay, so I have been reading the comments from Andy and BBD’s articles today. In one of the threads, I saw a discussion about giving a nickname to Kohler. There were a few nominations, but I will say my personal favorite was “Kohler Bear”. So here is what I want to ask of you. Can we think of a nickname for everyone on the roster, or at least the ones who get playing time? The TOC staff will decide on the best one for each player and, if yours is selected, you will get a shout out in an upcoming article. So get creative and submit your entries.