The Michigan State men’s basketball team bounced back from its loss against Duke University on Tuesday with a spectacular defensive performance in its 74-54 win over Butler on Friday night.
Coming into the match, the Bulldogs had put up at least 80 points in all of their previous games this season, but the Spartans were able to hold them to just 54 points on the night. One of the biggest reasons for the less-than-ideal performance on offense for the Bulldogs would be the poor shooting night from two of their biggest scorers in senior guard DJ Davis and senior guard Posh Alexander.
The combined backcourt of Alexander and Davis has been lights out so far as both guards have continuously been reaching the double-digit mark in scoring through their first three games. However, neither guard made it out of single digits on the night as they shot a combined 3-18.
Head coach Tom Izzo complimented the team’s first-half defense, especially on Davis and said that the overall performance of the team against Butler was a step in the right direction moving forward.
“Well, we took a step in the right direction against a team that has been playing awfully well. I thought we did a hell of a job defensively, the first half especially,” Izzo said after the win. “I told that Davis kid he’s a hell of a player, but went one for eight and I guess we ought to give our guys some credit on that.”
The Spartans played aggressive defense for the entirety of the game, whether it was trapping someone down low in the paint, or coming out to contest an open shooter on the perimeter the Spartans continued to play aggressively for the full 40 minutes of the game.
Their effort contesting shots really showed in the scoreboard and on the stat sheet as Butler shot an unimpressive 28.8% from the field and 28.0% from behind the arc.
Butler’s head coach Thad Matta talked about the impact that the Spartan defense made on his team’s overall offensive performance.
“It’s the quickness of the guards and the physicality they play with,” Matta said. “They were able to knock us off the bounce a couple of times.”
It was a team effort in the overall performance of the defense by the Spartans in their dominant win.
However, one player making his first career starting debut provided one of the biggest defensive performances of the night and his career.
Sophomore center Carson Cooper was given a huge opportunity on Friday night when head coach Tom Izzo decided to start Cooper ahead of the match against Butler and although he only scored three points he had a big night on the defensive side.
Cooper finished with 11 rebounds and two blocks, one that he sent into the stands that helped hold onto a lead later in the first half. Cooper also had a wide-open dunk that he put down later in the game to help seal off what had already been a big night for him.
“It’s really a dream come true,” Cooper said after the win. “For me, it feels good that everything that I have worked for is kind of coming together.”
Cooper made a big impact on the defensive end in the win, and not just on the boards but overall he had some solid defensive sets where he was able to impact or completely alter some inside shots from the Bulldogs.
“Coach told us before the game to do what you can control and do what you’re best at and so for me obviously offense is my focal point as far as what I need to get better at," Cooper said. "So defense is my strong suit and that is what I wanted to do and then I know everything else will come in place.”
Izzo had a lot to say about Cooper’s progress so far as he enters his season and what he is able to bring to this team moving forward.
“Yeah you know he’s gained probably twenty-something pounds and he moves his feet a little better. He does a great job of walling, you know he’s a little bigger in that respect and he moves his feet laterally,” Izzo said.
Izzo also complemented the physical play of Cooper and he also gave him credit for his solid performance from the free-throw line so far this season. Izzo also said that Cooper’s start tonight isn’t going to be a permanent thing but that between Cooper and Mady Sissoko there will be an even disperse of minutes between the two centers.
The Spartans will look to continue to implement strong defensive performances as they still look to find a groove on offense. One motto that Izzo has continued to push this year is that good defense will uplift the offense and vice versa.
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Izzo and the Spartans will hope to put up a similar performance on both ends of the court in their game against Alcorn State on Sunday, Nov. 19. Tip-off for that game is set for 6:00 p.m.
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