Basketball is here.
On Tuesday evening, No. 1 Michigan State men’s basketball met with Albion in an exhibition and first game of the season.
The exhibition went about as expected. Michigan State heated up towards the end of the first half and started to pull away, coasting to a large lead and victory. The Spartans were able to play their entire roster, and all got to contribute to the win.
“It was one of those nights where everyone got to do something,” Head Coach Tom Izzo said.
Michigan State kept it a little closer than expected with Albion, for the No. 1 team in the country, to start the game. Through a majority of the first half they held less than a 10 point lead.
The Spartans started the season off with a turnover and ball security persisted throughout the entire first half, turning the ball over ten times through the first 20 minutes of play.
Luckily, junior Xavier Tillman kept the Spartans afloat while the rest of the team got into a rhythm. Tillman finished the first half with a team-high 11 points, going 5-7 from the field.
Halfway through the first period the Spartans started to get into a flow, with big periods from senior Cassius Winston, sophomore forwards Gabe Brown and Thomas Kithier and freshman forward Malik Hall.
Winston was able to move the ball, racking up four assists to start his senior year, while Kithier, the big man that has impressed Izzo the most in practice at the four spot, pulled in eight rebounds.
While the Spartans struggled to find their flow, Hall and Brown were able to make some plays, both logging three field goals. Brown added a three pointer and a huge dunk as the quarter neared its end while Hall went 3-3 from the field to give the Spartans a consistent boost.
As the team started to get more comfortable, they were able to pull past a 10 point lead, finishing the half with a 13-5 run, boosting them in front, 40 to 25.
The Spartans seemed level-headed to start the second period. They weren’t fumbling the ball as much and brought a calmness onto the court.
Defense was a highlight of this half, as the Spartans clamped Albion for the entire second period. Forcing multiple shot clock violations, the Spartans' lock-down defense resulted in the Britons coughing up the ball 13 times during the half.
Sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr. finished with five blocks, swarming the Britons anytime they got near the paint.
The standouts from the first period continued to perform, as Gabe Brown and Malik Hall picked up where they left off. Brown added another dunk to his highlight reel to start the half off and Hall continued to play consistently when in, finishing with nine points.
After a quieter, still impactful, but quieter first half than expected from the preseason Player of the Year, Winston began to heat up in the second half, as he brought his point total to 16, finishing with nine assists.
Winston's assists went to big man, Xavier Tillman, as he continued to be the rock for Michigan State’s lineup. Tillman finished with a team-high 19 points, carrying the momentum he gathered at the end of last season into his junior year.
Shutting down Albion’s offense, Michigan State was able to extend their lead past 30 points as the contest neared its end.
Junior guard Jamezell Davis Jr. seemed to be the only Briton the Spartans couldn’t keep in check, as he followed a 12 point first half up with five in the second, but the effort wouldn’t be enough, as Michigan State would pull away with a win.
Michigan State would finish with an 85-50 victory in the exhibition, but the players know that this is just the beginning.
The Spartans' clock starts ticking as they prepare for their first regular season game, they will face No. 2 Kentucky in their season opener on Nov. 5, in the Champions Classic.
“The clock is ticking right now. It’s time to really lock in," Brown said. "It’s going be one of the best games in the country and we've got to be prepared, because I know they are going to be prepared, they’re going to be ready to come out and play their game. We've got to come out and play our game."