Following Wednesday afternoon’s practice, Michigan State Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo met with the media to discuss this Friday’s road game against Illinois and reflect on Tuesday night’s upset over No. 18 Wisconsin.
That impressive victory was just another win added to the column in what has been a hot stretch for the Spartans. Winners of seven straight, three of which were conference games, MSU seems to be rebounding from its late November/early December slump.
A large part of that recovery has been the improved health of the team. With sophomore guard Jaden Akins essentially at 100% and senior forward Malik Hall continuing his rehabilitation, Michigan State’s rotation has been working like a well-oiled machine.
Akins’s defense has looked solid for a few games now, but he finally flexed his offensive muscles against the Badgers Tuesday night, notching 12 points.
“I think he’s all but back,” Izzo said. “I think his body’s fine, I think his conditioning is a lot better, I think his shooting has really improved.”
Graduate student forward Joey Hauser and junior guard A.J. Hoggard were also both excellent in the upset. Hauser finished with a team high 20 points, while Hoggard slid the dagger into the Badgers in the final minutes of the game.
Freshman center Carson Cooper was one of the more surprising aspects of the victory. While his stat line doesn’t pop off the paper, Cooper had a solid performance, all things considered. He collected a pair of rebounds, a couple blocks and a steal in 12 minutes off the bench, the most minutes he’s had since Nov. 24 against Alabama.
“I thought, considering it was the first extended period of time, he did a good job against that team,” Izzo said. “I was pleased with Carson and how he handled it.”
Following the victory over Wisconsin, Michigan State has a few days of rest before heading back to the road Friday night. The Spartans are heading to Champaign to take on Illinois.
“The road’s not getting any easier ... in fact, it’s getting a lot tougher,” Izzo said. “I swear to you this is the most talented team (in the Big Ten) and a damn good team.”
MSU will head back to the Breslin to take on one of the best teams in the Big Ten, No. 3 Purdue on Monday, Jan. 16. at 2:30 p.m.
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