Sunday, August 14, 2022

Michigan State Men's Basketball: Five greatest moments from the 2021-22 season

June 28, 2022
<p>Senior forward Gabe Brown (44) attempts to shoot the ball during Michigan State&#x27;s win over the Davidson Wildcats on March 18, 2022.</p>

Senior forward Gabe Brown (44) attempts to shoot the ball during Michigan State's win over the Davidson Wildcats on March 18, 2022.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Michigan State men’s basketball had its fair share of ups and downs this season along the route to reaching a 23-13 record and an NCAA Tournament berth. 

The Spartans spent the entirety of the season looking for a leader on the floor, someone who could take charge and get buckets when they needed them. In individual games, they found it. In the ones they didn’t, they tended to struggle, leading to stretches of losses like losing seven of nine games in the month of February and the first two games in March.

But moments of joy did come for Spartan fans this season and we’ve compiled the best five from the 2021-22 season. 

Disclaimer: These moments are simply ranked in chronological order, not 1-5.

Spartans chop their way through Bad Boy Mowers Battle For Atlantis Tournament

In their mid-season tournament of the season, Michigan State had a gauntlet of games to test them at the beginning of the year. Game one was against the always feisty Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean. The Spartans jumped out ahead with a 9-0 run before Loyola Chicago finally got on the scoreboard seven minutes in. 

The Ramblers quickly picked up the pace and grabbed their first lead at 18-17 with 6:45 to go in the first half. A pair of three-pointers from the Ramblers were a part of a 16-6 run to go into the half with a 28-23 lead over Michigan State.

The offense was stagnant after their 9-0 run early in the first half, but senior guard Gabe Brown provided a quick spark in the second half with a trio of three-pointers to spark the offense. But it was junior forward Malik Hall that was the catalyst for this win, sinking all nine of his field-goal attempts and all five of his free throws en route to a 24-point performance to have the Spartans all knotted up at 61 with seconds to go. Junior guard Tyson Walker handled the ball at the top of the key as senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. bumped and bruised his way into position for an alley-oop pass to seal a win.

Brown’s hot shooting night translated into a more balanced attack for him in the next matchup with No. 22 UConn. Brown’s nine first-half points made the difference as they got out to an eight-point lead at the half. Brown would go on to finish with 16 points and 10 rebounds to propel the Spartans to a 64-60 win.

The run would come to an end against defending champion Baylor as the Bears’ defense limited MSU’s offense to 58 points, but the two games along the way sparked hope for the season.

Nine game winning streak sends Spartans to the top 10

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That loss to Baylor would be the last one for a while, as Michigan State went undefeated in the month of December with notable wins over Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and four wins over Big Ten opponents including Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern and Nebraska in the month of January. 

Against Nebraska, heralded freshman guard Max Christie seemed to have found his groove, scoring 21 points against the Cornhuskers on their way to a 22-point victory at home. At this moment, the Spartans seemed to be on their way to competing for a Big Ten title.

Spartans play their best half of basketball, beat rival Michigan

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Defeating your rival is always a good moment and this one was no different.

After a back and forth first half, the Spartans lead by only four. But a 14-3 run by Michigan State capped by a slam dunk by Brown put his team in the driver's seat for the remainder of the game.

MSU was now 16-4 on the season and 7-2 in conference play.

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Gritty defense helps down No.4 Purdue at the Breslin

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After the Michigan win, the season went south for the Spartans. After being what seemed like a lock for not only the tournament but a top-four seed, Michigan State’s tourney odds started to be put at risk as they lost four of their last five heading into a matchup with No.4 Purdue.

With future Detroit Piston Jaden Ivey on the roster, the Spartans looked out-matched prior to the matchup. However, it would be the guards of Michigan State that would begin to emerge.

Throughout, sophomore guard AJ Hoggard’s defense was vital in slowing down Purdue’s offense as Ivey was unable to get much going in momentum. However, sophomore center Zach Edey picked up the pace, scoring 25 points in the contest to keep it within striking distance most of the game between both sides.

After running to an 11-point lead, Purdue slowly inched back until the game was tied with just 15 seconds to go.

Walker was tapped as the man to take the shot at the end of the game, but something familiar was in the air. It was just four years prior to this when Miles Bridges was tapped as the guy to take the same shot over a tough Purdue squad. Both of them at this moment had the ball in their hands with precious seconds leaving the clock, Walker dribbled left, Bridges to his right. Both pulled up, squared and nailed a three-pointer to put their teams on top over Purdue.

This win sealed the Spartans in the NCAA Tourney and was by far their most impressive win of the season.

Spartans take down former teammate Foster Loyer and Davidson in NCAA Tournament First Round thriller

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Hey, did you know Foster Loyer used to play for Michigan State? Even better, did you know Jayden Reed and Payton Thorne played in high school together?

Jokes aside, the matchup between Loyer and his former team was enticing for obvious reasons. Not only that, but Davidson was many people’s sleeper teams in this NCAA tournament. A great shooting team with an experienced head coach on the bench seemed like destiny.

However, it was Michigan State who had Loyer’s number in this one. Specifically, it would be senior forward Joey Hauser who would make all the difference. His 9-12 shooting, including four of six from beyond the arc, sparked his squad, dawning this game as the Joey after-dark game.

The Spartans needed every point from Hauser as they moved onto the next round with a 74-73 win over Davidson.

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