MSU basketball uses suffocating defense to down Michigan in Ann Arbor, 73-63

Print More

Matthew Mitchell/MSU Athletics

Career goals and aspirations vary from player to player.

Some strive to win personal accolades, and some dream of being a March Madness legend.

But beating your biggest rival on their home court is a goal that floats through the minds of nearly every competitive athlete.

On Saturday night, all 15 players on the Michigan State basketball team got their first taste of beating rival Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“Whenever you get a win over your rival you’re excited,” graduate forward Malik Hall said. “It’s been a long five years. This is my first [win at Michigan], so I think it’s just happy and excitement to be able to say that.”

Not only did this team get its first win in Ann Arbor since 2019, but they did it in front of a large crowd of Green and White as well.

“The whole game I heard ‘go green go white’. I heard [Michigan fans] them trying to throw the ‘go blue’ in there, but it wasn’t the same,” Hall said about whether it felt like a true road game.

Down the stretch of the regular season, Malik Hall has been the poster child for this team moving forward. Posting 18 points on 8-13 shooting and corralling four rebounds, Hall continued his recent dominance after putting up 29 points against Penn State University and 22 versus the University of Illinois.

During those last three games, Hall is shooting 71 percent on 35 shots.

“[Hall’s] become a complete player. Malik Hall has been not only as steady as you can be…he had to do a hell of a job defensively.”

However, completing the season sweep over Michigan proved challenging for the Spartans.

Coming out red in the first half, similar to its previous outing in East Lansing, Michigan began shooting 4-5 and carried the momentum early.

A back-and-forth first half with the momentum shifting from team to team made it hard for either side to really find their stride.

Then, on a breakaway off of a Wolverine turnover, the Crisler Center got its first taste of a high-rising Coen Carr slam dunk. Even in opponent territory, the wide eyes and dropped jaws were vibrant throughout the arena.

A head-turning substitution in the waning minute of the first half happened for Michigan State, as the Spartans subbed in senior guard Davis Smith. Maybe it was so he could pick up a foul call instead of sophomore guard Tre Holloman picking up his third, but the opportunity Smith found himself taking advantage of was once in a lifetime.

Off another fast-break turnover, Smith charged forward with the ball, picking up a foul call and getting to the free throw line with under a second left. Calm, cool, and collected, Smith hit both free throws to give MSU a two-point halftime lead.

“Anything Michigan-related is number one,” Smith exclaimed regarding his career highlights. “Being able to do this in this game is a dream.”

“Today after the game, those guys jumped all over Davis Smith, and it was one of those scenes that,” Izzo paused. “It keeps you coaching.”

AJ Hoggard only saw three minutes of playing time in the first half after getting into foul trouble early, something unusual for the senior guard who usually plays over half of the first-half minutes for the Spartans.

Michigan stroked the three ball well in the first half, using it to accelerate its offense, whereas the Spartans were struggling to make shots from beyond the arc, going a stifling 0-5 in the first half.

“Three-pointers are nice. But you can’t live and die by the three-point line because you will die by the three-point line,” Hall said postgame.

Luckily for the Spartans, the three-point line wasn’t needed to down their rival. 27 points off of 22 Michigan turnovers, 19 fast-break points, and 15 steals would be the key to staying in and pulling away in this game.

A back-and-forth second half reflected the first half of this game. That was until there was 7:01 remaining in the contest.

A driving layup from Hoggard off a Michigan turnover put some fire into MSU late in this game. After junior guard Jaden Akins missed the front end of a one-and-one, Hall prowled through the box-out efforts from the Wolverines to grab an offensive rebound and get a foul call, dropping two more free throws and giving MSU a four-point lead late.

The turn, if you will. A phrase used by magicians as part of a magic trick, taking something ordinary and making it do something extraordinary.

Needing to pull away late, Michigan State found themselves on the positive side of the turn as the clock ticked away, and it did not look back as they turned an ordinary game into something extraordinary that these players will remember forever.

Michigan would finish not scoring a single point in that final 7:01, and the Spartans were able to go into victory formation and dribble out the remaining seconds on the clock.

Graduate guard Tyson Walker helped propel the Spartans with 19 points, Hall dropped a swift 18, and the Spartans defensive pressure led the way in a victory with tournament implications for MSU.

Akins struggled shooting the ball in this game, something not typical of him over the course of the season. Seven points on 3-10 shooting may not be impressive offensively, but coach Tom Izzo believes this team will see Akins heat up at the right time with his teammates.

“One of these days, we’re [MSU] going to get Jaden and Tyson to shoot well together. I guess maybe we’re saving it till when we need it.”

There’s always more to a college basketball season than beating your rival. Conference championships and tournament play are always at the forefront of team goals going into a season. But sweeping the season series against your rival is certainly an accomplishment worth basking in.

“I’m not gonna talk about Iowa now. I’m going to enjoy one hour of bus ride. I’m going to take the George Perles rule…it ain’t gonna be 24 hours but it’s sure as hell going to be an hour and a half,” Izzo said on how long he’s going to take to enjoy this victory.

Michigan State improves to 17-9 (9-6 Big Ten) and moves to third in the Big Ten standings, while Michigan falls to 8-18 (3-12 Big Ten) and stays at the bottom of the standings in the conference.

With some work to do to solidify a tournament position and improve its seeding, Michigan State hosts a hot Iowa Hawkeyes team that is coming off an upset win over No. 20 Wisconsin. MSU and Iowa tip-off at 7 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Comments are closed.