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Hall shines in return to from injury, provides production in Michigan State’s 63-61 win over Iowa

January 27, 2023
<p>Senior forward Malik Hall (25) shoots a free-throw after almost getting injured during Michigan State’s game against Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans ultimately beat the Wolverines, 59-53.</p>

Senior forward Malik Hall (25) shoots a free-throw after almost getting injured during Michigan State’s game against Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans ultimately beat the Wolverines, 59-53.

Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo has often spoken of the importance of senior forward Malik Hall, especially in his absence following an aggravation of a stress reaction in his ankle a few weeks ago. 

A gritty, ugly, blood pressure raising 63-61 win against Iowa Thursday evening proved the veteran coach right. On a night when a few of MSU’s best players weren’t on their game, Hall came off the bench and provided an essential 11 points, as well as four assists and three rebounds. 

“The guy just does a lot of things,” Izzo said. “Anybody wondered if we missed him - we missed him.”

Hall was first injured all the way back in November, suffering a stress reaction right before the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament. He returned soon after, playing for five straight games before aggravating the injury against Illinois on Jan. 13. 

Including the loss to Illinois, Michigan State went a measly 1-3 in the four games without Hall in the lineup. 

“They’re way better with him,” Iowa Head Men's Basketball Coach Fran McCaffery said. “It gives them a lot of flexibility in the front court - they can go big, they can go small - (he) gives you quality minutes, gives you another scorer, another defender.”

There’s a reason Hall’s absence was missed so dearly in that stretch, and it’s not just the highlight reel dunks or physical baskets in the paint. He’s perhaps the most versatile player on the roster. Hall can score from the paint or the perimeter, guard multiple positions and improve the entire defensive structure of the team. 

“Whatever you need me to do, I’m just gonna try to go out there and do it,” Hall said.

That versatility provided by Hall was on full display against the Hawkeyes. 

“If I had to pick a number one star, it was Malik,” Izzo said.

The offensive contributions were the most obvious way in which Hall helped propel his team to victory. Each time Hall came off the bench, he provided a boost to the offense. He reached double-digit points without notching a single three, choosing instead to put his head down and fight for points in the paint. 

And, of course, he posterized a hapless Hawkeye near the end of the first half, securing the lead for MSU and lighting the Izzone ablaze in the process. 

“It’s more comforting when he’s out there. He helps, he knows where to be, he knows what to do,” Izzo said. “I was surprised he moved as well as he did, even had a couple of rebounds, that dunk - that surprised even me.”

While those plays captured most attention, Hall’s defensive play was just as stellar. Throughout the night, he was often tasked with guarding perhaps the best player on either team, junior Kris Murray. The star forward entered Thursday’s matchup averaging over 20 points per game, putting him amongst the best the NCAA has to offer. 

However, Murray scored just 11 points against the Spartans. That’s tied for the third-fewest points he’s scored in a game all year. He put up just three points in the second half. 

In spite of his recent injury, Hall played physical defense against Murray, consistently pressuring and forcing a poor shot or a quick pass. MSU’s defense as a whole had a strong night, forcing 13 turnovers and keeping Iowa’s three-point percentage below 20%. Hall’s return to the rotation was a clear boost for the defensive unit as a whole. 

“He’s very versatile, he can guard any position. It allows us to switch more comfortably,” junior guard A.J. Hoggard said. “He definitely showed us a different look on defense, and it’s definitely what we’ve been missing.”

Michigan State clearly missed Hall in the rotation. While he isn’t quite at 100% - Izzo made it clear that he’ll probably have to deal with some soreness as he rehabilitates - a healthy Hall is essential for MSU as it trudges through the second half of the Big Ten season.

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