Friday, January 28, 2022

Preview: Louisville comes to town for ACC-Big Ten Challenge against MSU men's hoops

December 1, 2021
<p>Then-junior forward Matt Costello attempts a basket over Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell March 28, 2015, during the East Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight against Louisville at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The Spartans defeated the Cardinals in overtime, 76-70. Erin Hampton/The State News</p>

Then-junior forward Matt Costello attempts a basket over Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell March 28, 2015, during the East Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight against Louisville at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The Spartans defeated the Cardinals in overtime, 76-70. Erin Hampton/The State News

Photo by Erin Hampton | The State News

Michigan State returns to the mainland after finishing runner-up in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. MSU went 2-1 in three games against the strong field, with wins over Loyola and No. 17 Uconn and a loss to No. 4 Baylor

The trip to the Caribbean proved to be fruitful for the Spartans, who earned its first appearance in the AP top 25 poll this week, coming in at No. 22. The next challenge for MSU comes in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with Louisville coming to town on Dec. 1. 

Despite the success, Michigan State men's basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo said the three-day tournament revealed where the Spartans need to improve moving forward. 

The biggest areas of concern moving forward for MSU are its propensity to turn the ball over and its shooting woes from the team’s go-to options. Izzo said he has been working to address these issues since returning to East Lansing. 

On the turnover front, he said he has had conversations with junior and sophomore point guards Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard about their inability to hold on to the ball and used film to explain how to improve. MSU ranks 287th in the nation in turnover percentage (22.1%) and a large part of why is because the two primary ball handlers are combining for 5.5 turnovers a game.

“They're averaging three a game each, that's six right there,” Izzo said. “For point guards, that's a lot. And then everybody else is getting one and two, so we've tried to show them film. We showed them film of the turnovers and how ridiculous some of them are. When we didn't turn the ball, we got more shots — we played much better.”

In the possessions MSU holds onto the ball, Izzo said he wants to see better shooting from the team’s sharpshooters, particularly senior forward Joey Hauser and freshman guard Max Christie. The two combined to shoot 8-35 (22.8%) from the field and 3-15 (20%) from three-point range. Izzo said the shooting of the team can help elevate the team to another level.

“We have to get Max and Gabe (Brown) involved,” Izzo said. “Gabe is now much more involved. At the same time. I think Max and Joey are two of our better shooters, and Joey had some great looks. And yet, if you looked at his overall game, he rebounded, he defended, he, too, played pretty well. He just missed some wide-open shots.”

Izzo said if the team can improve in these areas, they can become a well-rounded squad. He said all of the players and parts have the talent to succeed and he’s looking to find the best way for the pieces to fit.

Scouting the Opponent

Next up in the Spartans’ way is Louisville. The Cardinals sit at 5-1 on the year with its most recent win coming over Maryland in the Baha Mar Bahamas Championship. The only loss on the resume for Louisville comes to Furman, who tripped them up in overtime on Nov. 12. 

The Cardinals are led by Florida transfer and senior guard Noah Locke, who leads the team in minutes (26.8) and points (13.0). Redshirt senior center Malik Williams also has the size and ability to rebound (9.8 per game) to give the Spartans fits inside.

“They have nine players that are playing at least 15 minutes or more,” Izzo said. “So that's quite a few guys - they're bringing them in waves. Noah Locke, the transfer from Florida along with the transfer from Marshall (Jarrod West) are two of their better players.” (3:34 to 3:48)

Louisville is the first of two games at Breslin Center this week for Michigan State. The Spartans will also host Toledo on Sunday, Dec. 4. The game against Louisville will tip off at 7:15 p.m. Dec. 1 and air on ESPN.

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