Monday, November 28, 2022

FINAL: Michigan State comfortably beats Northern Arizona 73-55 in season opener

November 7, 2022
<p>Freshman forward Jaxon Kohler throws down a dunk. Michigan State defeated Northern Arizona 73-55 at the Breslin Center in the season opener of the 2022-23 season. </p>

Freshman forward Jaxon Kohler throws down a dunk. Michigan State defeated Northern Arizona 73-55 at the Breslin Center in the season opener of the 2022-23 season.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

During the first game of the season, Michigan State took care of business against Northern Arizona, cruising to a 73-55 victory. 

Graduate senior forward Joey Hauser led the Spartans in points and rebounds, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds. 

The bench looked much improved in the first half with the addition of sophomore guard Jaden Akins, who missed last week’s exhibition game while still recovering from a surgery. In the first half alone, the bench accounted for half of Michigan State’s points. 

After a mediocre showing against Grand Valley State on the glass, Michigan State rebounded well against the visitors. The Spartans finished with a 46-37 edge in boards. 

First half

The first ten minutes of the game was all MSU. Northern Arizona struggled on both sides of the court, but especially on offense. At the ten minute mark, the Lumberjacks had just five points with a sub-20 shooting percentage from the field.

Offensively, Michigan State found points from across the lineup. Hauser led the team with 10 points, while the bench put together 17 points (sophomore guard Pierre Brooks and Akins each had six). 

After a poor first half showing against Grand Valley last week, Michigan State’s rebounding looked much improved against Northern Arizona. MSU went into the locker room with a 24-20 edge off the glass. 

The Spartans’ offense cooled off in the latter half of the first 20. With a scoring drought lasting over three minutes and some shots started to finally fall for the Lumberjacks, the visitors drew within 14 of the Spartans heading into the locker room. 

Second half

After a shooting 13 percent from three in the first half, Northern Arizona got hot from beyond the arch to open the second. Shooting over 50 percent from three with just over ten minutes left in the game, the Lumberjacks started to inch their way back into the game. 

Luckily for the Spartans, Northern Arizona continued to struggle on the other end of the court. Again, the point distribution was spread throughout the lineup, although a few of the starters finally started to heat up, and the bench cooled down a bit.

Junior guard A.J. Hoggard, who was scoreless in the first half, finally started to drive the net, scoring nine points. Going 0-7 to start the game, senior guard Tyson Walker finally got things going in the latter half too, notching three field goals. Hauser continued to build off of a strong first half, scoring eight points and earning five rebounds. Brooks was the go-to option of the bench, scoring eight points in the second half and finishing with 14 total. 

Ultimately, a slight improvement in shooting percentage was not enough for the Lumberjacks to make the game truly competitive in the second half. Michigan State’s offense, while inconsistent at times, eventually cracked Northern Arizona’s defense on most possessions with such a balanced lineup. 

The Spartans will face a much tougher test on Friday when they travel to San Diego to take on No. 2 Gonzaga in the Armed Forces Classic.

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