Thursday, November 30, 2023

Preview: Michigan State men's basketball ends road stretch at Illinois Friday

January 13, 2023
Junior guard Tyson Walker shoots a three-pointer over the Illinois defense. The Spartans fell to the Illini 79-74 at the Breslin Center on Feb 19, 2022.
Junior guard Tyson Walker shoots a three-pointer over the Illinois defense. The Spartans fell to the Illini 79-74 at the Breslin Center on Feb 19, 2022. —
Photo by Evan Freeman | The State News

Following its 69-65 narrow victory against Wisconsin, Michigan State men’s basketball has won seven straight games. The streak consists of a mix of conference and non-conference matchups at home, but the Wisconsin game marked the first time in this stretch the Spartans won on the road since Dec. 7. 

“It was a game where you really had to dig deep, play hard and play through all the adversity, especially playing on the road,” freshman center Jaxon Kohler said.”

But the road game stretch isn't over just yet. The Spartans will head to Champaign, Illinois on Friday night for another Big Ten showdown. 

During Tuesday night’s neck-and-neck matchup, MSU’s starting five led the charge for the green and white. 

Junior guard A.J. Hoggard stepped up at the point. He notched 10 points, eight assists and made himself available whenever the Spartans were in need of a basket, especially in the final few minutes of play. 

Graduate student forward Joey Hauser was another standout. He collected 20 points, redeeming himself from his lousy offensive performance against Michigan on Saturday. 

Senior guard Tyson Walker and Hoggard found a nice rhythm together on the floor. Walker picked up 13 points, playing a team high of 36 minutes alongside Hauser. 

The Spartans outrebounded the Badgers 33-18, with 11 of those courtesy of junior center Mady Sissoko.

Freshman center Carson Cooper played 12 minutes coming off the bench on Tuesday, shocking the crowd. Cooper hadn’t seen the floor for that long since Nov. 24, and he held his own in the middle.

“I was pleased with Carson and how he handled it,” Head coach Tom Izzo said.

Scouting the opponent

Illinois (11-5 overall, 2-3 in conference play) is coming off back-to-back Big Ten victories against Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Illini knocked off the Badgers 79-69, a team Michigan State defeated by three points on Tuesday. Prior to consecutive conference wins, Illinois faced defeat from Northwestern and Missouri a few weeks prior. 

“I think he changed up some things, changed his offense a little bit,” Izzo said. “That team has been a different team the last two-three games.”

Izzo said the Illinois roster is made up of a lot of versatile players, similar to the performance of senior forward Malik Hall.

Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. led the Fighting Illini in their last two wins, picking up 24 points against Wisconsin and 25 against Nebraska. On the glass, Shannon collected a team-high of 11 rebounds against Nebraska. Shannon transferred to Illinois after three seasons at Texas Tech. 

Another player to keep an eye on is junior forward Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins secured 12 points against Nebraska, and a team-high of five assists.

The Illini swept the Spartans to take both games played last season. The Spartans aim to rewrite the score on Friday.

Friday night’s showdown is set for 8 p.m. Central Time (9 p.m. Eastern Time) with streaming  available on the Big Ten Network.

“The road’s not getting any easier, in fact it’s getting a lot tougher,” Izzo said. “But I swear to you, this is the most talented team (in the Big Ten), and a damn good team.”

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