Following a brutal stretch of games, it’s right back to the road for Michigan State. This Wednesday night, the Spartans are heading to South Bend to take on Notre Dame as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
With the event recently canceled, this will be the final game MSU will play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the foreseeable future.
Much has been said about Michigan State’s tough opening schedule, and the past few days haven't been any different. A good chunk of the previous week was spent in Portland, with Michigan State competing in three contests in the Phil Knight Invitational. The Spartans went 2-1 in the competition, dropping one to Alabama and notching a pair of wins to close out the weekend.
MSU entered the tournament pretty banged up. With senior forward Malik Hall and sophomore guard Jaden Akins both injured and out of the lineup, the Spartans’ rotation was missing an essential starter and perhaps the strongest piece of the bench.
As a result, a handful of younger, less experienced players saw more in-game action, with varying results.
“We’re deeper than people think,” senior guard Tyson Walker said. “A lot of people stepped up this week and showed their value.”
Sophomore guard Pierre Brooks was one player that was able to shine at times with his more featured role, hopping into the starting lineup at the three. After a tepid showing against Alabama in the first game of the tournament, Brooks popped off for 15 points in each of the last two games. He was especially efficient against Portland, shooting 5-7 from the field and 4-4 from beyond the arch.
“He even picked it up from Friday to Sunday,” Walker said. “He was more efficient with his shots and even played more defense.”
Hall and Akins are not expected to be back in the lineup by tonight.
Scouting the opponent
While Michigan State is battle tested with a bevy of heavy-weight bouts under its belt, Notre Dame has yet to really face a real test.
As it stands, the Fighting Irish are 5-1 but have yet to play a ranked team. The lone loss of the season came at the hands of St. Bonaventure on Black Friday.
Senior forward Nate Laszewski has been perhaps the strongest of Notre Dame’s starting five. He leads the Irish in average points per game (18.2), rebounds (8.7) and minutes (37.8).
The Fighting Irish haven’t faced the toughest of opponents yet, but they have some of the characteristics of a squad that’s tough to beat. They don’t turn the ball over often (ranks top ten in the nation in turnovers per game) and they make their free throws (82.69 shooting percentage ranks third in the nation).
While it’s not yet clear how strong of a team Notre Dame is, the Joyce Center is sure to be rowdy for the visiting Top 25 team.
“It can get rocking,” Izzo said. “Last time we were down there we had to deal with the crowd.”
Tipoff is at 9:15 p.m.
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