Fourth-ranked Spartans men’s basketball shocked by James Madison in season opener

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Emily Lance

Monday night marked the long-awaited start of the Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball season. The fourth-ranked Spartans welcomed the James Madison Dukes into the Breslin Center.

The game started in very similar fashion to the exhibition matchup against Tennessee. Michigan State came out slow, struggling to make free throws and get defensive rebounds. Eleven minutes in, the Spartans were just 2 for 10 from the charity stripe. They also allowed 7 offensive rebounds in the first half.

However, returning leading scorer Tyson Walker kept the Spartans in striking distance, scoring 8 of the first 14 points for MSU.

It took the Spartans 18 minutes to connect on a three-pointer until sophomore guard Tre Holloman found the bottom of the net after a nice dish from Walker. It would be the only three-pointer the Spartans would make all night.

Freshman Coen Carr gave the Spartans a spark off the bench in his first official game in the green and white. He had seven first-half points and a thunderous block that brought the crowd to its feet in the first half.

James Madison led the game the entire first half with the lead peaking at 13, but by halftime, the Duke’s lead was only four.

With 10:53 remaining in regulation, Walker gave the Spartans their first lead of the ballgame on a nice give-and-go in transition from his backcourt counterpart A.J. Hoggard.

Despite giving up the lead, James Madison hung in there with the Spartans. It was back and forth in the final minutes of the game with the Dukes only down two points with two minutes remaining.

Walker was the closer for Michigan State, as he had the final ten points in regulation for MSU. He was the only Spartan to score a field goal from 6:55 in the second half to the end of the game.

James Madison forward T.J Bickerstaff was a key player for the Dukes; he hit a clutch game-tying mid-range jumper with 30 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. He finished the game with 21 points and 14 rebounds. JMU head coach Mark Byington was impressed by Bickerstaff’s performance.

“I thought [Bickerstaff] was unbelievable,” Byington said.

With 1:39 remaining in overtime, Walker made a layup through contact; however, he couldn’t make the free throw to tie the game. He would make up for it on the defensive end by forcing a JMU turnover which led to Coen Carr free throws on the other end. He split the free throws, tying the game 73-73.

With 38 seconds remaining in overtime, Walker was sent to the line with a chance to tie the game for MSU. He only made one and the Dukes held on to a one-point lead.

James Madison forward Raekwon Horton came off the bench to hit the dagger three-pointer for the Dukes. It was his only made basket of the game, coming with 8.6 seconds remaining to give JMU a 78-74 lead.

A 35-point performance from Tyson Walker wasn’t enough as JMU would hold on to win 79-76, beating a top-5 ranked team for the first time in program history. Coach Byington is happy his team is continuing the trend of successful JMU athletic teams.

“It’s great for JMU. Our football team is top 20 in the country, volleyball team and everyone else wins there so at least we’re keeping up our end of the bargain,” Byington said.

On the other end, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was unhappy with the leadership of his team.

“We don’t have very good leadership,” Izzo said. “That’s the one thing that I said during our first press conference this year.”

Upperclassmen Malik Hall and A.J Hoggard were a combined 4 for 23 from the field and 0 for 8 from three-point range.

Michigan State will look to bounce back on Thursday as they host Southern Indiana at the Breslin Center. That game will be at 7:00 pm and will be shown on Big Ten Network.

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