Monday, November 28, 2022

Tyson Walker brings the heat in Michigan State's narrow victory over Villanova

November 19, 2022
<p>Senior guard Tyson Walker (2) is about to pass the ball during the game against Villanova at the Breslin Center on Nov. 18, 2022. The Spartans defeated the Wildcats 73-71. </p>

Senior guard Tyson Walker (2) is about to pass the ball during the game against Villanova at the Breslin Center on Nov. 18, 2022. The Spartans defeated the Wildcats 73-71.

Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

Senior guard Tyson Walker lit the Breslin on fire Friday night. He just couldn’t miss. 

After hitting a 1,000-point milestone during Tuesday's Champions Classic in Indianapolis, Walker carried that momentum with him while battling new Head Coach Kyle Neptune's all-star roster.

In a 73-71 too-close-for-comfort win over the Villanova Wildcats, Walker stepped up helping the Spartans squeeze past their highly skilled competitors in the final seconds of the Gavitt Tipoff game.

Included in what Head Coach Tom Izzo refers to as his big three, Walker’s been a key asset to MSU’s success so far this season

His standout performance against the Wildcats is what put him over the top, dominating the court for the green and white. 

“He challenges me and everybody else and that’s very encouraging for me,” Izzo said. 

Walker reverted to old habits, becoming a more prominent player in the second half and driving to the basket every chance he got. 

Walker ended the night shooting 9-14 in field goals, racking up 22 total points, nine of which were from beyond the arc. He collected three defensive rebounds along with notching five assists in 34 minutes. 

Toward the end of the second half, Walker hit three consecutive jump shots to give MSU the upper hand over Nova. 

But he wasn’t finished just yet. 

The 6-1 guard went on to net two more shots in the remaining three minutes, one from outside the three-point arc. 

Walker said late in the second half, after he had stunned the crowd with back-to-back successful jump shots, he was asking for the ball back, eager to sink another basket. 

“Everyone else was asking for me to get it and we just drew up some plays for me,” Walker said.

Head Coach Tom Izzo said he’s seen the Northeastern transfer transform into a whole new player since he first entered the Breslin Center. A once reserved and decently quiet player has become the confident guard that has started in all four games of the 2022-23 season, scoring a minimum of six points and playing at least 32 minutes.

Walker said that over time, he’s become more comfortable on the team and on the court.

“It’s just growth, just knowing the game more, knowing competition, speed, everything,” Walker said.

“Last year, me coming in, I didn't really know much about people. Just having a year under my belt makes a big difference.”

A few days ago, Izzo mentioned to Walker that he needs to become more aggressive.

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Walker received the same feedback first from his dad after the Armed Forces Classic loss to Gonzaga. Walker played 38 minutes but only managed to take seven shots.

Izzo’s 2022-23 season lineup seems like it's falling into place and building that necessary team chemistry. After their fourth regular season matchup, it looks like the Spartans recognize each other’s strengths, weaknesses and what they can do to help one another improve.

Despite a longer stretch until the next matchup, MSU’s demanding non-conference schedule is just heating up. The Spartans will head to Portland, Oregon where they will face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational on Thursday night.

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