Sunday, June 26, 2022

FINAL: Michigan State catches fire in second half, outlasts High Point 81-68

December 29, 2021
<p>Senior forward Gabe Brown (44) in the Spartans&#x27; game against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. </p>

Senior forward Gabe Brown (44) in the Spartans' game against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Michigan State outlasted High Point 81-68 after a lackluster first half to close out their non-conference schedule.

With senior center Marcus Bingham Jr., junior guard Steven Izzo and freshman guards Max Christie and Pierre Brooks out due to COVID-19, the Spartans started freshman guard Jaden Akins and junior center Julius Marble in place of Bingham and Christie respectively. But it was the performances of senior forwards Gabe Brown (24 points, seven rebounds), redshirt senior forward Joey Hauser (17 points, 11 rebounds) and junior forward Malik Hall (13 points, three rebounds) that allowed them to pull out a shorthanded win late in the game.

The first half was a far cry from the strong starts Michigan State has been accustomed to this season. While High Point struggled to get much of anything going in the early minutes, the Spartans found themselves slowed down and corralled, with relentless defense from High Point sophomore guard Bryant Randleman and redshirt freshman guard Zach Austin. 

About three minutes in, sophomore guard Jaden House knocked down a three to open the scoring but Hauser answered with a layup to finally get Michigan State on the board. The Spartans held High Point on the other end of the floor and grew their advantage to four points in a run capped off by a three from Brown that garnered raucous cheers from the Breslin crowd. 

Hall and sophomore guard A.J. Hoggard pitched in layups to take an 11-6 lead but High Point was more than game to answer, taking advantage of Bingham and Christie’s noticeable absences on the defensive end. To make matters worse, Walker left the game for a spell with an unspecified injury, leading to sophomore guard Davis Smith checking in for the first meaningful minutes of his career. 

The Panthers promptly raced back to tie it up at 13 with a long three from wide-open sophomore forward Bryson Childress and the game devolved into a slugfest. For a period, Michigan State found offensive success feeding Marble in the post but High Point always found an answer, be it with threes from House or Austin’s shocking poster over sophomore center Mady Sissoko. 

Through it all, Hauser quietly emerged later in the first period with a number of key shots, be they in the box or at the foul line, to provide a bit of breathing room for Michigan State. Even so, High Point surged back every single time, refusing to go down with the vigor that few opposing teams had brought to the Breslin this season. 

As Michigan State’s forgettable half wound down to a close, Childress drilled yet another long three to tie it at 30 from nearly the exact same spot as his first one. Brown chipped in a triple to regain the lead but Holt answered with a three of his own with a minute left to send the Spartans off to the locker room on the wrong side of a 35-34 line. 

Coming out of the second half, Michigan State looked completely reinvigorated on the defensive end. The Spartans enthusiastically played all the hits, passing Wright off from Walker to Marble, creating a textbook mismatch to Michigan State’s benefit. 

Meanwhile, Hauser continued his success from the first half with two early threes to power Michigan State as Hoggard and Marble chipped in more and more to grow the lead. 

But as had been the case all game, High Point kept coming back, thanks to some key shots from one familiar face. 

Childress dropped in another long three to draw the Panthers even closer. On the subsequent possession, he silenced the building with yet another corner three to tie the game at 59 and give High Point the lion's share of the momentum deep into the game. 

Walker answered with a three on an ensuing possession but that was only the tip of the iceberg of the run Michigan State was set to wage at the hands of their captains. Brown downed three threes on consecutive attempts while Hall hammered away in the paint with thunderous dunks, all of it bringing the Breslin crowd to a state of unbridled joy. 

When the dust settled, Michigan State had taken a double-digit lead and brought in members of their supporting cast to close out the 81-68 win. For the last time, the Breslin crowd and applauded at the end of an anxious and wild second half. 

Michigan State returns to action on Jan. 2 at Northwestern.

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