Thursday, December 2, 2021

FINAL: Michigan State men's hoops reels off first road win against Butler, 73-52

November 17, 2021
<p>Senior forward Marcus Bingham Jr. (30) makes a basket during the game against Butler on Nov. 17, 2021, at the Hinkler Fieldhouse. The Spartans defeated the Bulldogs 73-52. </p>

Senior forward Marcus Bingham Jr. (30) makes a basket during the game against Butler on Nov. 17, 2021, at the Hinkler Fieldhouse. The Spartans defeated the Bulldogs 73-52.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

Michigan State downed Butler, 73-52, in Indianapolis, Indiana for their first road win of the year.

A quick start and grinding defense allowed the Spartans to hold on throughout a first half that saw them go cold and build on a comfortable lead throughout the second half. Freshman guard Max Christie (18 points, two rebounds), senior forward Gabe Brown (19 points, nine rebounds) and senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. (10 points, six rebounds, six blocks) shined in their finest outings this season. 

The Spartans struck first with an assertive fake-and-dunk from Bingham after fooling senior forward Bryce Golden. Few players had more of an effect in the early going than Bingham as he utilized his size and length to shut out the Bulldogs in the box and set the tone with two quick blocks to get things going. 

Sophomore guard Chuck Harris’s take from deep got the Bulldogs on the board but Michigan State countered with a triple of their own, courtesy of Brown. With that quick answer, the Spartans raced off to their finest start to any game this season, keying in on weak spots in Butler’s defense and flat out overwhelming them as the Bulldogs waged offensive drive after drive. 

Turnovers, forced and unforced, stunted any momentum Butler found as they slipped in and out of dry spells while Michigan State charged ahead and grew their lead to as much as 12 with a little over ten minutes left in the first half. A high midrange jumper from Christie over graduate student guard Jair Bolden made it 22-8 and it looked like Michigan State would only need a few more breaks to crack the game open for good. 

Bolden got Christie back on the ensuing possession with a three to narrow Michigan State’s lead to 11 points. After that, a rising swell of fouls and turnovers from both teams mired the contest in a continuous scoring drought that saw a long stretch of hard defense and sloppy play.

Graduate student forward Aaron Thompson finally took the lid off the basket after penetrating and reaching up for a high layup, making it 22-13 Michigan State. Junior center Julius Marble II subsequently chipped in one free throw to increase Michigan State’s lead but it was Harris who lit up the crowd with another three that gave the Bulldogs new life at 24-16 despite the deficit. 

That is, until the next whistle. Brown charged ahead towards the basket and collided with junior center John-Michael Mulloy, earning the and-one and a slew of cascading boos from the Hinkle faithful. Following the conversion, junior forward Malik Hall got it in the corner and hit a three of his own, 30-19 Michigan State. 

Graduate student forward Ty Groce recovered a missed shot and a second chance layup to pull Butler closer than comfort allowed. When Bingham stumbled after rebounding another missed shot from Groce and heaved it in the direction of Michigan State’s bench, it seemed all too likely that the slow, death-by-inches drama of the first half would continue into the second half.

Brown got the scoring started in the second half with a step-back jumper as Michigan State looked to get back to being aggressive in the first few minutes. However, Groce again kept the Bulldogs hanging around with a three, 34-28 Michigan State.

Michigan State certainly found answers in the first half but they weren’t going to be denied in the second. Christie, seemingly on cue, continued his near-perfect night mere seconds after with a triple of his own. Brown finally got another three to fall off the kickout to make it 42-28 a little over five minutes into the half. 

And again, there was Christie, cutting up into the paint to extend their lead with a finish at the rim. Butler had been slugged early with a burdening Michigan State attack and the message was clear: The Spartans were back in business. 

Harris answered with another contested mid-range shot but looks for him came fewer and fewer as the Spartans worked to close him out in space. Michigan State’s defense stuffed the lion’s shares of drives to the rack, a feat with Bingham’s fingerprints all over it. 

Butler wagered some notable attempts to sway the momentum in the final minutes, including a final 7-0 run, but there was one clear moment of separation:

Hall’s deep three with a little over three minutes left pushed the Spartans lead to 20, forced a Butler timeout and all but delivered the knockout punch for Michigan State’s first win on the road. At that point, fans began to usher out, not staying for the final result and the visiting cheers for the Spartans ringing through Hinkle.

Michigan State returns to action on Saturday with a home matchup against Eastern Michigan. Tip off is at 5 p.m. 

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