East Lansing – After a long seven months, fans were able to see Michigan State basketball take the floor for the first time since their heartbreaking loss in the Sweet Sixteen to Kansas State in last season’s March Madness tournament. While it was only an exhibition game against Hillsdale College, MSU basketball connoisseurs were highly excited to see this team take the floor again.
Michigan State rolled the entire game, going up 47-20 at halftime and finishing it off winning the game 85-43. Sophomore Carson Cooper and Graduate Student Tyson Walker led the Spartans with 13 points each, followed by freshman Coen Carr with 12 points.
There is no doubt Michigan State Basketball has high expectations coming into this season. As the preseason No. 4 team, this squad is looked at as one of the deepest and most disciplined teams in the country. Coming off the exhibition win, here are three quick takeaways from MSU’s first time on the hardwood this season.
This freshman group is poised to make a big impact
The four newcomers on this Michigan State team are part of what makes this team so exciting going into the season. Five-star freshman forward Xavier Booker, four-star freshman guard Jeremy Fears Jr., four-star freshman guard Gehrig Normand, and four-star freshman forward Coen Carr all joined the team this offseason, and they all look to have great chemistry with the team already.
Booker came into the game and showed off his bag of skills, draining two threes and getting three rebounds. His defensive presence was also felt, as he had three blocks and looks to continue to dominate the paint moving forward this season.
While Fears only came up with two points on 1-for-3 shooting, his eight assists did not go unnoticed. It was clear that while Fears is young, he sees the floor really well and can make passes to all sides of the court. He may be behind what has been referenced as the best backcourt in the country with Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard, but if he keeps showing that he has what it takes this season, he will get the keys to the castle next season.
Possibly the most athletic player in the country, Coen Carr showed what he can bring to the team in a big way. Scoring 12 on 6-8 shooting, as well as a highlight reel dunk just before halftime, Carr showed that he can fit into this rotation just fine.
Gehrig Normand may have shined the least amongst the newcomers, but he also only received eight minutes of playtime. As the season progresses, he may carve out a role in the rotation and be a key piece when coach Tom Izzo needs to rest some of the starters. In his eight minutes, he managed to get a bucket, and he will gain confidence with the more minutes he plays this year with some of the longer-tenured players on the roster.
The coaches ran a different defensive scheme, and the players executed well
The Michigan State basketball team has typically not run a full-court press defense in the past, but today it felt like they ran it quite a bit: And it worked. The usual half-court one-on-one defense that coach Izzo has always run was still run during this game, but the press defense made quite an impact.
MSU players stayed in front of the Hillsdale players when they had the ball, stood their ground, and forced turnovers. Jeremy Fears forced a turnover in the first half while pressing and it was evident that when Michigan State executes on defense and can turn defense into offense, this team is as exciting as any team in the country.
Not only did the scheme work well, but the Spartans tallied 10 blocks as well, playing dominant in the paint.
It is to be determined how much Izzo runs full-court press once the regular season officially starts, with the Spartans taking on Duke, Arizona, and Baylor. It will be something to watch going forward.
Rebounding has been an issue in the past, and there were some struggles today with it too.
Dating back to last season, Izzo has spoken of the team’s lack of rebounding ability. It seemed to be an issue last year with players not fully securing the ball off the glass and receiving over-the-back penalties. This exhibition game was better than most games last season, but it is an exhibition against Division II Hillsdale.
The Spartans only outrebounded Hillsdale by four in the contest and moving forward into the regular season that is going to have to be something that gets addressed when playing in the Champions Classic and Big Ten play.
Some positives to come out of the rebounding category were seeing guards like Tyson Walker and junior Jaden Akins pull down seven and six rebounds, respectively.
While the rebounding was not as lackluster as we have seen previously, coach Izzo is going to be running rebound drills with this squad the entire season in practice.
The college basketball season is a long one. A long season that people across America anticipate for months. Michigan State has high hopes, and this was just the beginning for a team hoping to bring a national title back to East Lansing.
Michigan State’s next exhibition is Sunday, Oct. 29 at 3:30 p.m against Tennessee at the Breslin Center. All proceeds from the event benefit the Maui Relief Charity.