Michigan State men’s basketball ends its 2023-24 season with a loss to North Carolina, 85-69

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Ethan Hunter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was a dream start for the Spartans.

Jumping out to a 26-14 lead with just over eight minutes to play, Michigan State was scoring with ease. Senior Mady Sissoko owned the paint, and the Spartans were suffocating the Tar Heels on defense, positioning them to knock off a No. 1 seed en route to back-to-back Sweet Sixteens.

But, symbolic of the troubles that have phased MSU the entirety of the season, inconsistency and lack of execution lead to a 20-3 North Carolina run, sending the fans dressed in baby blue into a frenzy and taking away all the momentum that Michigan State had built in the first 12 minutes. A nine-point halftime deficit for Michigan State felt monstrous after the awe-inspiring start.

Five minutes into the second half, the fiery, imposing Spartan team on display for the first 12 minutes of the game returned, bringing it to a two-point deficit just over four minutes into the second half.

To much dismay, the Spartans that splintered time and time again this season showed up in the most diminishing time possible, as the Tar Heels pulled away in the final 10 minutes of the game, continuing their dominance and stampeding towards their next opponent.

As was predictable for Michigan State, from the stunning opening game loss to James Madison to the beatdown of Baylor, all the way to the unexpected home loss against Ohio State late in the season, the inconsistencies outweighed the soundness.

After the rollercoaster Round of 32 game, the Spartan season ends with North Carolina drubbing MSU, 85-69.

“One thing I will say about these guys all year, they could have thrown in the towel many times with what we went through,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “But we just didn’t come up with big plays, and [North Carolina] did. I’m proud of the fact that we could’ve given up. These guys have been through a lot.”

For the seniors, walking away from the program after a season that failed to fulfill expectations is difficult. But remembering the good times will outweigh the bad.

“As a young freshman or sophomore, you see the players after the game and you understand the sadness,” graduate Steven Izzo said. “I feel like, yes, this loss is going to hit me hard — it sucks that I’m not putting on the jersey, but you know I’m going to try and be around for these guys as much as possible.”

And for a player like Malik Hall, who has endured both criticism and praise to the full extent, he walks away grateful for the time he spent.

“I’m mostly just thinking about my career being done [at MSU],” graduate Malik Hall said. “I’m not really thinking about that loss. I mean, yeah it’s fresh. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but I had a lot of good memories here. I had a lot of good memories at this program. It’s an opportunity that not a lot of people get. There’s probably millions of kids out there that wish they could be in my shoes and be in this situation. I’m just grateful that Spartan nation gave me a chance and showed me as much love as they did while I was here.”

In the loss, graduates Tyson Walker and Hall poured in 24 and 17 points, respectively.

For seniors Mady Sissoko and AJ Hoggard, decisions still linger. Both players still have the option to come back and play a fifth year in college basketball.

Another Michigan State basketball season came and went, and some players must walk away from a program that has been a blessing for a multitude of seasons. For others, the opportunity to return and make an NCAA Tournament run still hangs in the balance.

Michigan State finishes the 2023-24 season 20-15, with 12 players eligible to return to the program for the 2024-25 season.

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