In Michigan State’s final road matchup of the regular season, the Spartans outlasted Nebraska 80-67 after a late second half comeback. The green and white played a puzzling first half, unable to sort things out especially on the offensive end of the floor.
MSU returned from halftime trailing by 12, but eager to rewrite the final score. With the help of several Spartans, the conference win was a combined effort.
Junior guard A.J. Hoggard jumped off the stat sheet with 14 assists, tied for the third most in program history in a single game with MSU men’s basketball all star Earvin “Magic” Johnson. The last time a Spartan came close was Cassius Winston in 2017 with 13.
The starting point guard has proved his ability to be multifaceted at the one spot and get plays rolling for his team.
“When you’re driving, you gotta be pretty special to be able to do both (pick up assists and hit shots) and he’s growing into that now,” head men's basketball coach Tom Izzo said. “He’s really done a great job.”
Senior guard Tyson Walker was another standout player. The guard collected 19 points after a troublesome first half where he went a measly 2-8 from the field.
“What he's been able to do is just incredible,” senior forward Malik Hall said. “Since the second half of last year until now he's gotten more and more comfortable and he's continuing to do that through the remainder of the season.”
The second half comeback allowed for a necessary road win after a devastating loss in Iowa City the previous Saturday in a conference where each and every game counts in relation to the standings as the tournament nears.
“We’re sitting here on a Thursday and have no idea whether we can be a 10 or 11 seed in our own tournament or a three or four,” Izzo said. “That’s never happened, that’s unbelievable right now.”
On Saturday’s senior day Hall, Walker and graduate student guard Jason Whitens plan to participate in the festivities. Graduate student forward Joey Hauser walked last year. No decisions have been made on whether or not they will return for another season.
Hall is in a bit of a different boat than his fellow graduating teammates, being the only one who’s played his entire collegiate career in green and white.
“I hope they remember me for being a good person,” Hall said. “All that other stuff is cool but as long as people can look back and say he was a good guy who treated everybody nicely and never acted too big for a situation, that’s the most important thing to me.”
Izzo announced after Thursday’s practice that senior guard Steven Izzo will return for his fifth season as a walk-on as well.
“It’s really a good thing for me,” Izzo said. “It’s just been an incredible experience having him around everyday.”
Scouting the opponent:
The last time MSU faced OSU for its Super Bowl Sunday showdown, the Spartans left Columbus with a 21-point finish (62-41) over the Buckeyes.
Hauser led the charge for MSU down the stretch, clinching 22 total points, eight rebounds, a pair of assists and a block. Eighteen of Hauser's points came from beyond the arc.
MSU leads the overall series 76-61.
Since the February matchup, OSU has been on a hot streak after defeating its past two opponents (Illinois and Maryland) both at home.
“I know they're running a smaller lineup for the most part... and it's definitely something that could be a problem,” Hall said.
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MSU will take on OSU Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is slated for noon and the game will be televised on ESPN.
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