In a showdown with a slow scoring start and a lousy offensive performance from both teams down the stretch, Michigan State ultimately collapsed to Rutgers 61-55 at Madison Square Garden, moving to an even 6-6 in conference standings.
After meeting at the Breslin Center a few short weeks ago, Michigan State, outlasted then No. 23 Rutgers 70-57, and the Spartans were eager to get another conference win against the Scarlet Knights.
The green and white struggled to get something going offensively in the first few minutes of the game. They had plenty of good looks, but couldn’t seem to get shots to fall.
It was an especially unusual start for graduate student forward Joey Hauser. Hauser went 0-4 from the field in the opening minutes of play.
Spartan turnovers remained a weak link at the Garden. MSU collected five midway through the first half and went on to pick up a total of 14.
Senior guard Tyson Walker put MSU on the board in the return to his home state, followed by a layup from senior guardA.J. Hoggard.
The Spartans then went on an almost seven minute scoring drought.
It wasn't until midway through the half when Hoggard sent the ball to Hauser who then weaved his way through the Scarlet Knights and tossed the ball into the basket from underneath.
With just under 13 minutes to play, junior center Mady Sissoko picked up his second personal foul and freshman center Jaxon Kohler took the floor.
Kohler went on to play 12 minutes in the first half. Sissoko saw the floor for four minutes and freshman center Carson Cooper for two.
Walker led the charge for the Spartans, picking up a team-high 12 points.
Once the clock started ticking down, MSU finally got into an offensive rhythm. Baskets from senior forward Malik Hall, Hauser and Kohler allowed MSU to take the lead.
With just a few seconds left, Walker picked Rutgers senior guard Cam Spencer's pockets and sent the ball down the floor to sophomore guard Jaden Akins, who drove to the basket to beat the buzzer and put two more on the board for the green and white.
Despite a feeble offensive start, the Spartans got into a groove, ultimately leading their opponent 25-19 at the half.
MSU carried its offensive momentum into the second half in the first few minutes, but quickly slowed down when faced with Rutgers' defense. Both teams lacked consistency on the offensive end of the floor, but showcased an impressive defensive performance.
The green and white went on another (five minute) scoring drought, allowing the Scarlet Knights to tie it back up midway through the half.
MSU matched Rutgers' lousy shooting from behind the arc. MSU ended 4-21 from deep compared to Rutgers 3-16.
Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo needed more from his guards. The lack of aggressiveness allowed for Rutgers to shorten their lead down the stretch.
The Spartan bigs had trouble against Rutgers junior center Clifford Omoruyi as well. Omoruyi notched a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
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