In the end, the game turned out to be a comfortable win, but early on it was anything but. The visiting team came out in the first half with a good game plan and a bit of a hot hand, particularly guard Jaelin Llewellyn, who was getting another start for injured Dug McDaniel. Jaelin had twelve points at the break and finished with 18 to lead um. It took a bit of a breakout performance from Jaden Akins to keep the Spartans within range, as they trailed by only two at halftime.
The second half was an old-fashioned butt-kicking clinic which, if I’m being honest, was what I was expecting from the whole game. Maybe the team came in feeling a bit of pressure about the circumstances of this game and were tight; maybe that is what Izzo’s halftime speech addressed. Whatever he said, the second half gave us the version of this team that can be dangerous and could go on a run in March. We’ll see if it is finally here to stay. Let’s get to the good and the bad of this game.
3 Things I Liked:
1. Milestones. Similar to the game a couple weeks ago versus Rutgers that will be remembered for only one thing, Steven Izzo’s first points, this game will also just be remembered for one thing. And what a thing it is. Our legendary coach, Tom Izzo, notched career win #700. Extra fun that it coincided with his 69th birthday and also came against our despised enemy. Tom is the 30th D1 coach to reach this milestone.
Speaking of milestones, a shoutout to AJ Hoggard on reaching 1,000 career points for MSU. He is the 56th Spartan to join the club, a club that also includes two current teammates who earned admission earlier this season, Malik Hall and Tyson Walker.
2. Jaden Akins. As mentioned in the intro, it was a big day for Shakin’ Bakin’. After dropping 11 points by halftime, he would finish with a career high of 23, a total that included an amazing 7-10 from three-point land. I’m not going to overanalyze this performance. It was great. Let’s see it some more. Hopefully he just needed to have a game like this to get himself going.
3. “I’ll take that.” I’m not sure if I can remember an MSU team that was so good at stealing the ball from their opponent. And there are so many skilled pickpockets on this year’s team. Last night, six different Spartans recorded at least one steal. Malik Hall, Jaden Akins, Tyson Walker, AJ Hoggard, and Carson Cooper each have an entry in that column. So, too, did Tre Holloman, whose steal was one of the most incredible I’ve ever seen. Less than a minute to go and the game very much decided, um gets a loose ball and starts running down court. They have a 4-on-1, with only Holloman standing between them and an easy basket. Tre stood in the lane, waited for them to come to him, anticipated where the dribbler was going to go with his inevitable pass, and then pounced at just the right time to intercept it. And since four of the last-place opponents were now standing around without the ball, Holloman took advantage of the situation to pass it up to Hoggard who would drop it in for a layup a couple seconds later, the last points of the game, and Hoggard’s milestone basket.
3 Things I Disliked:
1. Rebounding. Yep, still an issue. In this one, um won the battle of the boards 34-26, including 13-9 on the offensive glass. That’s all I have to say about that.
2. Free Throws. A couple things here. First of all, um had a massive FT disparity in this one, taking 26 shots from the stripe in comparison to MSU’s eight. Even worse, MSU only sunk 4 of those eight. In the first half, Walker had an 0-2 trip. Hoggard missed a front-end of a 1&1, but fortunately Mady Sissoko was able to tip it back out to him and that ended up being a basket & 1. When we are the better team, we should not be allowing the opponent to be more aggressive, not to the tune of having 18 more FTAs.
3. The slow start. This definitely showed up last night, as um managed to seize a nine-point lead in the first half and controlled the score board until the second half.
All of these dislikes are repeat offenders which is why I am not going into much depth about them. You are all as tired of reading it as I am of writing it. Hopefully, moving forward, we continue to get double-digit scoring Hall, massive amounts of steals, and the version of Akins that led us to victory against the wolverines.
Congrats again to Tom Izzo.
Next up is Maryland at home this Saturday.