Thursday, May 23, 2024

Spartans beat Sooners 67-55

November 15, 2001
Freshman forward Alan Anderson drives to the basket past an Oklahoma player in the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Sooners at Breslin Center. The Spartans beat the Sooners 67-55.

With so much parity in college basketball, there’s a reason why the rankings extend to the top 25 teams in the country.

And No. 15 MSU found that out Wednesday night against No. 25 Oklahoma in a 67-55 win to advance to the Preseason NIT Semifinals. The victory also extended the MSU’s possession of the nation’s longest home-winning streak to 46.

The matchup marked the Spartans first against a ranked opponent this season, and MSU head coach Tom Izzo will be the first to admit it didn’t come easy.

“That was a strange game to say the least,” Izzo said. “It was really won the old-fashioned way, and I knew that (head coach) Kelvin (Sampson’s) team was going to play us tough.”

With help from junior forward Adam Ballinger, who scored seven of MSU’s first 13 points, there were indications of a potential blowout. Ballinger had career-highs with 13 points and nine rebounds.

“One time out on the court, we had three freshmen, a junior and a walk-on,” Ballinger said. “It’s a lot different this year, but I think we did well with the lineups that we had.

“I’ve been working really hard to be more aggressive on the floor, and I felt like things were going my way,” he said. “We as a team have a lot of guys that need to step up, just like tonight, and we’re all making an effort to do so.”

But under the marksmanship of Sooner point guard Hollis Price, Oklahoma was able to cut the lead to within two twice in the first half.

Price, who scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, took advantage of 12 MSU turnovers in the first half.

In fact, the Spartans’ play was so sloppy, they committed five consecutive turnovers late in the first half, to spark an 8-0 Oklahoma run. Izzo said the team needs more practice after finishing the game with 20 turnovers.

After a timeout at the 3:35 mark of the first half, freshman forward Alan Anderson was able to extend the lead to seven with a short jumper.

Price came right back, connecting on a three-pointer to cut the lead to within five at the break.

Something clicked in the second half for the Spartans, who were able to once again own their opponent on the glass, 35-30.

Sophomore forward Adam Wolfe scored six straight points in the second half to rally the Spartans to a 47-42 lead with halfway through the second half.

On MSU’s next possession after a key defensive stop, freshman guard Chris Hill rejuvenated the team and crowd with a slippery behind-the-back dribble for a pull-up jumper.

Hill’s play began a 11-7 run for the Spartans, to give them their largest lead of the game, 62-51 near the four minute mark.

With the win, MSU advances to 2-0 on the year and will travel to New York City’s Madison Square Garden to face No. 21 Syracuse on Nov. 21 in the semifinals.

“I think we’ll grow as players and people and we’ll have some team time and that will be great for the camaraderie and togetherness of this group,” Izzo said.

Eric Lacy can be reached at lacyeric@msu.edu.

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