Michigan State battled back from a slow start to rout Eastern Michigan 83-59 for their third consecutive victory.
Prior to an occasionally testy and physical affair, the Spartans (3-1) shuffled the starting lineup for the first time all season, inserting junior forward Malik Hall in place of senior forward Joey Hauser. The move more than paid off as Hall contributed 15 points and 9 rebounds while senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. added a game and season-high 19 points and 12 rebounds. Senior forward Gabe Brown chipped in 10 points and freshman guard Max Christie put up 13 points as well.
Despite going down early and letting up a couple of late runs while the game was out of reach, the Spartan’s defense shined for the second game in a row, recording a team total of ten blocks with four coming from Bingham alone.
Michigan State also recorded a season-low 10 turnovers, a marked improvement from their prior outing against Butler.
After winning the opening tip, the Spartans struggled early as Eastern Michigan’s defense worked hard and successfully limited Bingham and the company’s impact in the paint. The Eagles notched two blocks early and moved players out of position, stifling any and all attempts by Michigan State to take it to the rack.
Offensively, senior guard Nate Scott struck first for Eastern Michigan with a three to give them the early lead. Then, freshman guard Noah Farrakhan notched another three to increase their lead. Senior guard Darion Spottsville followed up with a floater and at the end of it all, one thing was clear: the Eagles had no intention of backing down.
While Michigan State managed to answer through a variety of options and never fell behind by more than four points, the Spartans suffered through difficulties on both ends of the floor as they tried to battle ahead and take control of the contest.
Midway through the first half, the Spartans started to find their groove on both ends of the floor. A pair of free throws from Brown gave Michigan State their first lead of the game and the Spartans closed out defensive possessions much stronger than they had in the early going.
Then, a hard foul from Walker on Michigan State’s baseline led to a standoff between him and Scott. Both had to be separated and double technicals were issued on Walker and redshirt freshman Yusuf Jihad following a minor scrum that led to a tense few minutes of deliberation.
When play resumed, Michigan State took the charged energy from the delay onto the court and began to pile it on with back-to-back threes from Hall and Christie, 30-21 Michigan State. The Spartans seemed to do everything, be it running out the break or rebounding, harder than they did before with Bingham, Hall and Brown leading the way.
It took some time but the Spartans battled through a considerable scoring drought and found their footing defensively to close out the half on a 7-0 run and take a 49-31 lead.
Coming out of the half, Eastern Michigan brought out the hard-nosed defense that had given Michigan State trouble from the get-go. The effects of it were not nearly as great as they were in the first half and the Spartans had little trouble overcoming.
A jumper and dunk from Bingham gave Michigan State the 56-35 point lead and by then, the game had all but transitioned to a complete rout. The Eagles still pushed the pace and played aggressive defense but failed to make much of an impact offensively, notching a mere six points through nearly the first eight minutes of the second half.
Eastern Michigan did manage to catch fire out of their prolonged slump, waging a 13-2 run and getting their deficit back below 20 points. Still, the Spartans remained relatively unfazed and continued to cruise, using the time to even experiment with a couple of new lineups on the floor.
As the final buzzer sounded, Michigan State walked off the court with an 83-59 victory and survivors Eastern Michigan team’s best punch.
The Spartan returns to action on Wednesday, Nov. 24 against Loyola Chicago as part of the opening round of the annual Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The tip-off is at 11 a.m.
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