SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Following a long 2-1 weekend stretch in the Phil Knight Invitational, MSU men’s basketball was back on the road for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, where it faced Notre Dame for the 98th time in program history.
Michigan State fell to the Fighting Irish 70-52 on Wednesday night in South Bend, Indiana.
Spartan fans packed the stands for the matchup, eager to see the two teams face off for the first time since 2014.
The Spartans’ starting five mimicked that of the PKI with sophomore guard Pierre Brooks, junior guard A.J. Hoggard, senior guard Tyson Walker, graduate student forward Joey Hauser and junior center Mady Sissoko.
It was a painfully slow start for the green and white, the board reading 3-11 in field goals midway through the first half. Hauser led the Spartans with eight points, yet MSU quickly trailed 24-11.
MSU struggled to find its groove offensively, trailing the Fighting Irish for the entirety of the half.
Despite it being the fourth game played without senior forward Malik Hall and sophomore guard Jaden Akins, MSU showed it need the two back on the court.
MSU’s rebounding was a weak link, with 14 rebounds, compared to Notre Dame's 17.
The Fighting Irish picked up 24 points from beyond the arc, making eight of 13 attempts. Just as MSU had expected, graduate student guard Cormac Ryan didn’t make it easy for the green and white. Ryan notched 19 points in the first half, 15 of which were from behind the arc.
MSU started to shut down Ryan with 4:30 to play in the half, but the Spartans remained behind at the half, trailing the Fighting Irish by almost double, 42-24.
Second half starters looked a bit different than the first, with graduate student guard Jason Whitens replacing Brooks at the three spot.
While MSU’s initial defensive efforts looked promising, they slowly dwindled within the first ten minutes of the second half as Notre Dame shut down its opponents, putting new faces in the spotlight.
Freshman guard J.J. Starling notched 14 points and graduate student guard Dane Goodwin picked up seven. Ryan continued to bring the heat for the Fighting Irish, keeping one of MSU's strongest defenders, Walker, on his toes.
Hoggard looked to rewrite the score in the second half, leading the Spartans with eight points. Despite this, turnovers and foul trouble got in Hoggard’s way, both of which have been an evident challenge for the guard so far this season.
With just under eight minutes in the game, senior forward Nate Laszewski came to play, an opponent MSU had its eye on heading into the matchup.
Graduate student forward Nate Laszewski went on to collect five second half points and three second half rebounds.
It wasn’t until the final 4:28 minutes when Walker finally broke a Spartan 5:19 scoring drought, but the Spartans went onto another scoreless period of just over two minutes, broken by a driving layup from Hauser.
Despite efforts early on in the second half, MSU failed to secure the comeback, leaving the scoreboard to read a final score of 70-52. Notre Dame holds the overall program high with 61-37 wins over the Spartans.
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MSU will return to the Breslin Center on Sunday night as it jumps into conference play against the Northwestern Wildcats. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
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