In the Big Ten-ACC Conference challenge, Michigan State men's basketball continued their conference’s run of dominance by downing Louisville 73-64.
The Spartans overcame another turnover-heavy performance to charge through a formidable Louisville team with aggressive team defense, strong performances in the paint and one of their finest nights in transition.
Junior forward Malik Hall led the way for the Spartans with 15 points and five rebounds while going a perfect three for three from deep. Senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. added nine points and 12 rebounds as junior guard Tyson Walker spread it around to the tune of 10 assists.
In one of the night’s most interesting turns, Michigan State turned in one of their finer three-point shooting performances all year, making 10 of their 18 shots from deep as opposed to Louisville’s paltry seven out of 27.
Both teams were evenly matched in nearly every major statistic going into the game and certainly played like it in the early going. Through four minutes, Louisville held a four-two lead as both teams started slow and went blow-for-blow on the defensive end, combining to go an early three-12 from the field.
Hall quickly came off the bench and tied it up for the Spartans with a reverse layup as the shot clock nearly ran out. A three from sophomore guard Dre Davis kept Michigan State at arm’s length, albeit only momentarily, as senior forward Gabe Brown got a quick pass from junior center Julius Marble II and drove through the paint for the score.
At an early rebounding deficit, Michigan State continued to hit the boards and make their presence known in that aspect. Turnovers, both forced and unforced, still plagued the Spartans, and yet, they’d stayed afloat throughout much of the early back-and-forth slugfest between two strong defenses.
Junior guard El Ellis knotted the game and capped off a minor Louisville run with an athletic finish at the basket. Bingham answered on the other end with a thunderous slam to bring Michigan State ahead once again, but graduate guard Jarrod West answered with one of Louisville’s two threes of the half to make it 22-21.
From there, Michigan State briefly caught fire as Hall and freshman guards Max Christie and Pierre Brooks hit from deep on back-to-back-to-back possessions to take their most decisive lead of the half. The Spartans started slow but hung in, picked their spots wisely and took a considerable lead by shooting a remarkable six out of 10 (60%) from deep.
Bingham’s slam saved Michigan State from closing the half with yet another scoring drought as Louisville slowly inched their way back into it, the buzzer sounding on a 36-28 Spartan advantage.
The second half started acrimoniously for Michigan State as Walker was whistled for his second and third fouls in the first minute and a half. Walker headed to the bench, and the Spartans brought on a lightly used sophomore guard A.J. Hoggard to keep things going.
Davis’ early dunk brought the Cardinals back to a three-point deficit. Hoggard, now faced with anchoring the point for much of the second half, made a clutch corner three to keep Michigan State out of the scrum that had defined much of the first period.
Although Louisville had struggled mightily from three, West stepped back up and knocked down his second triple of the night to make it 39-37 a little over five minutes into the second half. Michigan State had steadily turned it over up to this point in the half. If there ever were a time for a big play to set the difference, it was then.
Hoggard’s And One at the rim sparked a 13-2 run that brought a packed Breslin crowd to the point of delirium. After Hoggard’s conversion, Louisville turned it over, and Akins answered with a corner three and then chipped in a pair of free throws, later on, to keep the heat on the Cardinals.
Hall notched a quick five points, and at the end of a dizzying two-and-a-half minutes of basketball, the Spartans leading 52-39 for their largest lead of the game up to that point. Hall notched another three, and Bingham followed up with an alley-oop dunk as Michigan State pulled suddenly ahead by 16 points, turning a tightly contested game into a near blowout in a little over four minutes.
Michigan State continued to maintain their comfortable lead throughout much of the ongoing minutes until Ellis created an 8-0 run all by himself. The Spartans, holders of a 67-56 lead, now had to effectively close off the final few minutes, with one of Louisville's most dynamic players finding a dangerous stride.
Louisville leaned on Ellis as he continued to dazzle, cracking 20 points with a layup to make it 70-62 with roughly 90 seconds to go. As time dwindled down, the Cardinals pressed and fouled Michigan State, only to fall in the final seconds at a nine-point deficit.
Michigan State returns to action on Saturday against Toledo. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.
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