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Preview: Michigan State men's basketball looks to get back on track against Maryland

February 7, 2023
<p>Junior center Maddy Sissoko, guarding the ball at the Iowa v. MSU game held at the Breslin Center on Jan. 26, 2023. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 61-63.</p>

Junior center Maddy Sissoko, guarding the ball at the Iowa v. MSU game held at the Breslin Center on Jan. 26, 2023. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 61-63.

Photo by Denille Reid | The State News

On Saturday afternoon the Michigan State collapsed down the stretch to Rutgers at Madison Square Garden, a Big Ten team they had outlasted a few weeks prior at the Breslin Center

MSU lacked offensive aggression from the opening minutes of the conference showdown. From behind the arc, MSU shot 4-21 by the end of the matchup

The center spot struggled when faced with junior center Clifford Omoruyi, who notched a double-double against the green and white. Foul trouble posed a problem for junior center Mady Sissoko early on in the game. Sissko picked up two personal fouls with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

The starting Spartan big has struggled with ball handling over the past few weeks. Sissoko started the 2022-23 season efficiently in this area when he went head-to-head with some of the best bigs in the country. Once conference play started heating up however, Sissoko’s performance began to drop off.

“It’s not a lack of effort and it’s not a lack of focus, I think it’s a lack of maybe some confidence on his part,” Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo said.

Another obstacle is reintroducing senior forward Malik Hall into the lineup, specifically easing him back into playing two positions (the three and four spot).

"It’s been more challenging than I thought it would be,” Izzo said. “It’s a positive for us, it’s just more challenging.”

While the Spartan defense has been successful, their past few matchups have shown immense struggle on the offensive end.

Izzo said the first thing that needs attention is eliminating the number of turnovers

When asked about his three players averaging over thirty minutes per game, Izzo was honest about the lack of depth.

“I have no choice,” Izzo said

The green and white’s eight man rotation and lack of depth is the reason for fatigue and extensive minutes for experienced players graduate student forward Joey Hauser, senior guard Tyson Walker and junior guard A.J. Hoggard

If Izzo emphasized the importance of one thing during his press conference on Monday afternoon, it’s that he needs more from Hoggard in terms of leadership on and off the floor

Although Hoggard plays considerable minutes, he’s not where Izzo needs him to be at this point in the season.

“He needs to run our team,” Izzo said.

However, Izzo spoke in support of what he has done to boost his team this season especially with the adversity faced due to injuries.

“There’s a reason he plays a lot of minutes and there’s a reason he’s had to play a lot of minutes,” Izzo said. “Because he’s good enough to do it. Do I think sometimes he tries to do too much? Well usually that happens when other people aren’t doing enough.”

Scouting the opponent

Maryland is looking to pick up its fifth consecutive win in conference play, after shutting out the Golden Gophers 81-46 on the road. Prior to its matchup at Minnesota on Saturday night, the Terrapins defeated No. 18 Indiana on Jan. 31

Maryland's 2022-23 roster brings experience that the Spartans lack

“They’ve got two sixth year guys, some fifth years,” Izzo said. “They’ve got some real staples from that program.”

Senior guard Hakim Hart, senior forward Donta Scott and graduate student guard Jahmir Young are players to keep an eye on during Tuesday’s Big Ten matchup. All three have started in all 23 games this season

Young, the transfer from Charlotte, has been a key asset to Maryland’s recent hot streak, averaging over thirty minutes in the previous five games (except against Minnesota). 

Although Maryland has emerged victorious in recent conference play, all of which were at home, with the exception of Minnesota (1-11). The road game in East Lansing will be a test for the Terrapins' recent success.

Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. at the Breslin Center.

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