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Another slow start costly for MSU men's basketball in 74-68 loss to No. 3 Arizona

November 24, 2023
<p>Michigan State University mens basketball team giving each other a pep talk before the game against Alcorn State University on Nov. 19, 2023. </p>

Michigan State University mens basketball team giving each other a pep talk before the game against Alcorn State University on Nov. 19, 2023.

Photo by Maya Kolton | The State News

Despite a near-comeback bid against No. 3 Arizona on Thursday, the Michigan State’s men’s basketball team couldn’t pull off the upset after falling behind early. 

Another slow start for MSU was the root of its 74-68 loss to the Wildcats on Thanksgiving Day in Palm Springs, Calif.. The Spartans started 3-for-15 from the field and trailed by 14 points midway through the first half. 

In each of its three losses so far this season, the MSU has struggled to make shots and defend at a sufficient level in the early going. The team went 2-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half of a nine-point loss to Duke and an overall 1-for-20 from three against James Madison to open the season.

However, against Arizona, the Spartans rallied behind guards A.J. Hoggard and Jaden Akins to mount a 13-3 run and take a three-point lead with just under four minutes remaining. Arizona responded with eight straight points to reclaim the advantage and sealed the deal with a number of defensive stands. 

The Wildcats’ ball pressure bothered the Spartans early. They turned it over six times in the first half, leading to 10 Arizona points. On defense, MSU had no answer for Arizona’s repeated backdoor cuts for layups. 

Graduate student guard Tyson Walker made up a majority of MSU’s offensive production for the first 20 minutes. He took matters into his own hands when the Spartans fell behind 21-7, scoring 12 points in the first half and keeping them afloat heading into the locker room down 40-30.

Hoggard and Akins were both non-factors in the first half, combining for zero points, one assist, and four turnovers. Hoggard sat for the final 8:29 of the half. Akins sat for a seven-minute stretch as well.

The message was well-received by MSU’s veteran guards. Akins grabbed a steal right out of the break and dunked it on the other end while Hoggard led the Spartans on a run to take their first and only lead of the game. 

Hoggard finished the game with 15 points and Akins tallied 12, all of which were scored in the second half. 

Walker didn’t score in the final seven minutes after falling on his hip. He was tough enough to remain in the game but didn’t look like himself. His night ended his night with a team-high 18 points and four assists

Similar to their battle with Duke, the Spartans showed they could go toe-to-toe with an elite team. They flashed glimpses of what they were made out to be in the preseason but once again, couldn’t put it together for 40 minutes. 

Now 3-3, MSU returns home to play Georgia Southern on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at the Breslin Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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