Despite a late push from the visitors, a cavalcade of threes and some key defensive stops from the hosting Michigan State Spartans sealed a 73-71 victory over the Villanova Wildcats.
MSU’s starters were extremely impressive. Led by senior guard Tyson Walker’s 22 points, four of the Spartans’ five starters (the exception being junior center Mady Sissoko) reached double-digit points.
Michigan State also had a solid night on the glass, notching 31 rebounds to Villanova’s 26. The turnovers weren’t nearly as pretty, with MSU finishing with 12 on the night, double the Wildcats’ total.
Michigan State’s offense was mostly effective from beyond the arch in the first half. The Spartans drained eight threes through the first 20 minutes, finishing with a higher three-point percentage (57) than field goal percentage (48).
The bench struggled to get baskets in the first half, notching just five points. Led by graduate student forward Joey Hauser’s 10 points, MSU’s starters carried the load offensively after a sluggish start.
The first ten minutes of the opening half were relatively choppy for both offenses. After draining a couple of quick threes, the Spartans’ shooters went cold, failing to notch a field goal for nearly four minutes.
On the flipside, Michigan State’s defense had a stellar start. Through the first ten minutes, Villanova shot under 30 percent, putting up just 11 points. By the end of the first, the Wildcats only marginally improved that percentage, reaching 35 and shooting just 15 percent from beyond the arch.
The story was much of the same in the second half, minus the rocky start from the offense. Villanova continued to struggle to make it past the Spartans’ defense, while Michigan State’s offense, driven by starters, continued to find just enough to outpace the visitors.
Momentum palpably swung towards the Spartans just a few minutes before the halfway point of the second half, courtesy of sophomore guard Jaden Akins. Collecting a Villanova turnover, Akins blitzed down the court and knifed towards the basket. The Wildcats’ Brandon Slater stepped into the paint, leaping up in an attempt to make a block. With the ball in his left hand, Akins brought it crashing down with an eye-popping slam, posturizing Slater in the process to take a 47-36 lead.
With Breslin rocking, the Spartans started to pull comfortably ahead of the Wildcats. While the threes continued to rain down for Michigan State, Villanova struggled to find any sort of effectiveness on offense. With a paltry field goal percentage of 25 through the first ten minutes of the second, the Wildcats couldn’t seem to buy a bucket.
However, the visitors started to claw back in the final ten minutes of the game. Michigan State’s offense finally cooled down a bit. A boatload of free throws and some threes finally falling for Villanova brought the game within one point with just under one minute left in the game.
Down by just two points with less than ten seconds left in the game, the Wildcats had possession and a chance to notch the game winning or tying basket. However, Villanova’s three-point heave with seconds left was off the mark, and senior forward Malik Hall collected the rebound at the glass to secure victory.
Michigan State has six days off until the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland on Thursday night.
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