Thursday, February 2, 2023

Preview: Michigan State men's basketball prepares for 'rock fight' versus Rutgers

January 19, 2023
Junior guard AJ Hoggard (11) dribbles down the court during a game against Purdue University at Breslin Center on Jan. 16, 2023. The Spartans fell to the Boilermakers with a score of 64-63.
Junior guard AJ Hoggard (11) dribbles down the court during a game against Purdue University at Breslin Center on Jan. 16, 2023. The Spartans fell to the Boilermakers with a score of 64-63. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Michigan State men's basketball is looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses as the team welcomes the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to the Breslin Center Thursday.

The Spartans are coming off a heartbreaking 64-63 loss to No. 3 Purdue on Monday after losing to Illinois on the road as well.

With 10.8 seconds left on the clock, it looked like MSU was about to pull off a narrow victory. That was until 7-foot-4 junior center Zach Edey drove to the basket and squashed the Spartan's chances at upsetting the Boilermakers.

“I was really proud of my team for how they responded, how they competed and how they executed down the stretch,” Head Coach Tom Izzo said.”

Izzo said that his team's lousy performance in the first few minutes directly impacted the final score. Although MSU made necessary adjustments later on, it was too late to complete the comeback.

Senior guard Tyson Walker stunned the crowd, hitting his season high of 30 points and keeping the green and white in the battle.

“Tyson’s a hell of a player,” freshman center Carson Cooper said. “With Malik Hall being out and him stepping up playing a big role definitely helped us stay in the game.”

All three Spartan bigs had a shot going up against Edey. Junior center Mady Sissoko picked up four fouls, sending freshman forward Jaxon Kohler and Cooper in at various points.

Senior forward Malik Hall sat out against Purdue due to a re-aggravated foot injury, and it’s uncertain when he will be able to return.  

After receiving positive news from the specialist, Izzo is optimistic that Hall will have a chance to play again this season, it’s just a question of when.

"The crack that I think they thought they saw is more or less the healing process,” Izzo said. “Malik also had a broken big toe earlier in his career and that was scar tissue in there.”

In the meantime, Michigan State will need to learn to navigate the rigorous conference season without arguably their most versatile and experienced player on an already shortened roster.

Scouting the opponent:

Rutgers (13-5) has been the only team able to take down No. 3 Purdue, having outlasted the Boilermakers 65-64 on the road to kickstart the new year on Jan. 2. The Scarlet Knights are coming off back-to-back Big Ten wins against Northwestern and Ohio State.

Rutgers is another team that plays big, with junior center Clifford Omoruyi in the middle. Omoruyi withstood Edey at the five just a few weeks ago.

Senior guard Cam Spencer leads the team in minutes. Spencer notched a team high of 21 points, six assists and four steals against Ohio State on Sunday. Izzo said the Scarlet Knights' guard size is what sets them apart from others in the conference, along with a lineup packed with veterans.

“It’s gonna be another rock fight," Izzo said.

The last time the two faced each other was on Feb. 5, 2022 when Rutgers shut down the Spartans 84-63.

The Spartans will be looking for a different outcome this time when they take on Rutgers at the Breslin Center Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. with streaming available on FS1.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Preview: Michigan State men's basketball prepares for 'rock fight' versus Rutgers” on social media.