Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tyson Walker ignites offense, Michigan State doesn’t look back against No. 17 Indiana

February 22, 2023
<p>Senior guard Tyson Walker (2) searches for an open teammate while the Hoosiers put on the pressure on Feb. 21, 2023. MSU went on to beat the Hoosiers 80-65.</p>

Senior guard Tyson Walker (2) searches for an open teammate while the Hoosiers put on the pressure on Feb. 21, 2023. MSU went on to beat the Hoosiers 80-65.

Photo by Jonah Brown | The State News

At this point, it’s a familiar story for Michigan State. The offense is struggling, turnovers and bricks aplenty. Even the usual suspects - graduate student forward Joey Hauser, junior guard A.J. Hoggard and senior guard Tyson Walker - are struggling to generate an offensive rhythm. It’s a slow start against a tough conference opponent. 

Then, someone takes off. Sometimes, it’s Hauser with a timely triple. Other times, it’s Hoggard with a slippery drive to the net or a slick dish to an open teammate. 

Oftentimes, it’s Walker simply draining shot after shot. That was the script Tuesday evening. 

Michigan State looked lost against Indiana just over 10 minutes into the first half. The Spartans were losing the battle on the boards. Each offensive possession seemed to stall out before it got anywhere. Hoggard had three turnovers by the 11:25 mark. MSU just looked out of sorts. 

While star senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis wasn’t quite cooking yet, the Hoosiers’ guards were scoring in bunches. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but Indiana was doing just enough on offense to keep Michigan State at bay. 

Down 22-13 against one of the more talented teams in the Big Ten, Michigan State was in trouble as the team entered the huddle. 

“It was more just us saying we can’t get ourselves in a big hole again. We’ve been doing that a lot,” Walker said. “It’s hard to come back, it takes a lot of energy. So that was just really the talk, and we came out and shots started to fall.” 

And boy, did those shots start to fall. Walker nailed a triple and senior forward Malik Hall notched a few free throws. Indiana responded with a quick layup. 

Then, another three from Walker. Less than a minute later, another triple from Walker. The Breslin Center was electrified. Just like that, Michigan State had tied things up, 24-24. 

“Tyson was out of his mind there on a couple of those shots,” Izzo said. 

The rain of triples lit a fire under the offense. Michigan State ended the half on a 22-7 run, effectively taking control of the game and dictating the pace of play. Even freshman forward Jaxon Kohler joined the scoring party, earning four points with some nifty post-moves under the basket. 

Naturally, Walker ended the first half with one last bucket from beyond the arch. Twelve points from the former transfer portal pickup, and Michigan State had flipped the script. The Spartans went into the locker room with a 35-29 lead over IU. It was a lead that was not relinquished for the remainder of the night. 

“Tyson did a hell of a job just knocking down those threes,” Hauser said. “It just really brought us some life when we needed it.” 

That heat generated by Walker carried well into the second half. The Hoosiers were greeted with a barrage of threes in the opening minutes of the second. It took less than three minutes for Walker, Hauser, Hoggard and sophomore guard Jaden Akins to each splash a triple. 

However, that firepower didn’t last forever. In the midst of a nearly three-minute scoring drought after the hot start, MSU was starting to let its opponent creep back into the game. Indiana went on a 9-0 run near the midway point of the half, drawing within five points. 

Again, it was up to Walker again to rekindle the offensive flames as the half wore on. He pulled up for a tough jumper with seconds left in the shot clock, and just like that, the offense was spurred to action. Including that jumper, MSU rattled off a quick 8-0 run and retook control of the game, slamming the door on its opponents. 

“We’re getting a lot of games where we’re neck and neck, really close towards that time in the second half, about the ten-minute mark,” Hall said. “It was just something that we’ve been kind of harping on for the last couple of games, just to make sure that we finish the job and continue to execute what we’re doing on offense and defense.” 

Following the 8-0 MSU run kicked off by Walker’s jumper, Indiana never came within more than eight points of Michigan State. The Spartans had proven that, on the right night, they could still take over down the stretch - thanks in large part to the stellar play of Walker. 

By the end of the game, Walker racked up 23 points, going 5-7 from beyond the arch. It’s the fifth time this season he’s finished with more than 20 points. 

“Tyson exploded when we needed it at the right time,” Hoggard said. “We’ve seen Tyson do it plenty of times. He’s definitely one of those guys that, when we’re struggling, we can trust to make something happen.”  

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