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FINAL: MSU men's basketball knocks off Toledo 81-68

December 4, 2021
<p>Freshman guard Jaden Akins rushes to the basket. </p>

Freshman guard Jaden Akins rushes to the basket.

Photo by Chandra Fleming | The State News

Michigan State used a 33-5 run over a 12-minute period to topple Toledo 81-68. After a cold start, MSU caught fire from the three-point line in the first half, shooting 52.9% from deep to build an insurmountable 20 point lead at halftime. 

Early on, the shots were not falling for Michigan State. The Spartans missed its first four shots of the field before senior forward Gabe Brown got MSU on the board with back-to-back floaters for MSU’s first four points. In the first five minutes, MSU shot 2-9 from the field, including 0-5 from behind the arc.

However, Toledo was unable to jump out to an early lead thanks in large part from MSU’s smothering defense. The Rockets started 1-6 from the field and turned it over twice on drives in the paint towards centers Marcus Bingham Jr. and Julius Marble II.

After the slow start from both teams, the pace ratcheted up after the first TV timeout with the score tied at four. It started with a three from Toledo forward Setric Millner Jr. right over the outstretched hand of junior forward Malik Hall. MSU answered with a three of its own from Brown, who scored the first seven points for MSU.

It was the start of another strong first-half performance. Brown finished the first 20 minutes with a team-high 10 points, making it the second consecutive game he’s reached double digits in the first half. Brown finished as the team’s second-leading scorer with 12 points, behind freshman guard Max Christie, who finished with 14 points. 

The back-and-forth play continued on the next two possessions. After a Toledo and-one, freshman guard Jaden Akins became the second Spartan to score with a corner three to tie the game at 10. 

The game began to change drastically after Akins tied the game with his three. The shot sparked a 16-2 run from Michigan State over the next five and a half minutes to establish a 23-12 lead with seven minutes left in the first half. 

The defensive intensity was a large catalyst for the run for MSU. Junior guard Tyson Walker and sophomore guard A.J. Hoggard began to hound Toledo’s guards on the perimeter. During the run, Toledo had three straight possessions ending in turnovers caused by Hoggard and Walker, leading to a called timeout from Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk and a double-digit Spartan lead.

The Michigan State onslaught did not subside for the rest of the half. After leading by 11 with seven minutes left, MSU pushed the lead to 20 at halftime, outscoring the Rockets 37 to 13 after trailing 10-7 early on. MSU finished the half making nine of its last 12 threes after starting 0-5 from deep.

Toledo came out swinging at the start of the second half looking to cut into the 20 point deficit. The Rockets started the second half on a 10-4 run thanks to trips to the free throw line and impressive individual efforts to score from Toledo’s starting point guard Ryan Rollins, who scored six points immediately to start the second half.

MSU was able to bounce back from the flat stretch offensively by attacking the rim. MSU made it a point of emphasis to get the ball into the paint, leading three trips to the free throw line following the Toledo run to push MSU’s lead back out to 56-40 with 12 minutes left in the game.

The Rockets did not roll over and stop fighting down the stretch, however. After trailing by 16, the Rockets had a chance to cut the lead to 10 on a Rollins three, but it rimmed out. MSU answered with an Akins three in the corner again to push the lead back to 16 with just over eight minutes left. 

All three of Akins’ baskets tonight came on the corner three. Once again, he provided a massive lift off the bench for the Spartans. His efforts led to a nine point, seven rebound, three assist performance in 24 minutes off the bench. 

Toledo kept battling after the answers from MSU, eventually cutting the lead to single digits briefly with six minutes left. MSU answered again, this time with back-to-back baskets for Marble at the rim to push the lead back to 68-55 with just over five minutes remaining. 

MSU was able to quell any last-ditch efforts from Toledo to come back over the final five minutes, holding on to win 81-68.

With the win, Michigan State moves to 7-2 on the year and 4-0 at the Breslin Center. MSU will return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota in its first Big Ten game of the season.

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