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Preview: MSU men's basketball gears up for rivalry battle against the Wolverines

January 7, 2023

The Spartans lost to the Wolverines 87-70 against Michigan at the Chrisler Center on March 1, 2022.

Following a 74-56 victory over Nebraska in Michigan State’s first conference game of 2023, the Spartans are looking to pick up another win over the Wolverines on Saturday afternoon. 

Saturday’s game will be the first part of the rivalries home-and-home series, with the second game set to take place on Feb. 18 in Ann Arbor.

During Tuesday night’s matchup, Michigan State opened with an electric performance at the Breslin Center. Senior guard Tyson Walker had an impressive first half, as he collected 16 of the green and white’s 39 halftime points. 

Freshman center Jaxon Kohler was another Spartan with a standout performance, notching a career high of ten points. 

Senior forward Malik Hall played a total of 18 minutes, the most since the game against Villanova on Nov. 18, prior to his absence on the floor due to injury.

"Malik is coming, he's just taking a little time," Head coach Tom Izzo said. "Everyone else is healthy and we're excited to be ready to go.”

Sophomore guard Jaden Akins played a season high of 29 minutes. Akins continues to contribute to MSU’s success and grasp vital experience in the starting lineup.

On the glass, the Spartans outrebounded their opponent 46-10. Graduate student Joey Hauser and junior center Mady Sissoko each collected 10 rebounds.

Scouting the rival

The Wolverines sit at 9-5 overall and are 3-0 in conference play. Michigan most recently defeated their conference opponents, Maryland and Penn State.

A few players to look out for are junior center Hunter Dickinson, freshman guard Jett Howard and sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin.

Dickinson collected a career high 32 points in Michigan’s 81-46 win over Maryland along with 12 total rebounds. 

Dickinson will be a test for Sissoko, who’s already faced some of arguably the best bigs in college hoops. As long as Sissoko's able to stay out of foul trouble, the Spartans should be in good shape.

“I’ve seen the work that he’s put in all summer and what Mady did the first two weeks of college basketball against two top bigs in the country,” junior guard A.J. Hoggard said. After seeing the energy he brought in those matches, I don’t have any worries or doubts for Mady Sissoko going into this game.”

Both Howard and Bufkin started in all 14 games this season. Howard averages 31 minutes and 15.1 points per game while Bufkin averages just under 31 minutes and 3.1 points per game.

While turnovers have remained a weak link for the Spartans all season, Michigan has been one of the most efficient conference teams at not turning over the ball. Saturday’s matchup will be telling about the progress MSU’s made in this aspect of its game. 

Michigan leads the rivalry overall 109-87. However, the green and white have won the last four games at the Breslin Center and suffered defeat at home just three times since 1998. 

“Winning the battle of the state means the world to me,” Izzo said. “I grew up in this state, recruited a ton of kids from this state and I still live in this state. It will always mean something as long as I'm here.”

The players also understand the deeper meaning of this matchup.

“It’s a basketball game at the end of the day but this game’s different so you’ve gotta give it everything you got," Sissoko said.”

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The rivalry showdown is set to tip off at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday with streaming available on Fox.

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