The No. 18 Michigan State men’s basketball team fell to No. 9 Duke 74-65 during what was yet another sluggish offensive performance —although better than the first two games of the season.
The matchup between the Spartans and Blue Devils was not lacking in action, and Michigan State showed pockets of what everyone thought the team would look like before the start of the season. However, they were just not able to keep up the pressure through to the end of the match.
Senior center Mady Sissoko won the tip-off for the Spartans, and game one of the Champions Classic was underway.
After major issues for MSU beyond the arc so far this season, senior forward Malik Hall kicked off scoring with a three less than a minute into the game, but Duke got the ball right back down the court to put two of its own points on the board.
Despite the quick start offensively for both teams, the game remained stagnant at 3-2 for over four minutes because of some strategic defensive plays on both ends of the court. But freshman guard Jeremy Fears Jr. broke the double-scoring drought with a steal and layup to breathe some life into the Spartans.
The Blue Devils took a little longer to get out of their scoring funk, going nearly six minutes before center Kyle Filipowski finally sunk a layup to invigorate the Duke offense, and with twelve minutes left in the half, Duke guard Jeremy Roach found his opportunity to tie the game 9-9 with a shot from beyond the arc.
Halfway through the first half, senior guard A.J. Hoggard sent the ball out to junior guard Jaden Akins for three. Akins’s three-pointer gave the Spartans the same amount of threes in the matchup against Duke as they had already on the season, having gone 2-31 during the first two games of the season.
The Blue Devils took control of the game near the end of the first half, but the Spartans remained right on their tails. Two and-one opportunities from senior guard Tyson Walker and Hoggard gave the Spartans the chance to tie up the game. Both and-one opportunities were unsuccessful, and MSU was 0-2 from the charity stripe early.
The Spartans found themselves on yet another scoring drought, but this time, the Blue Devils were not in that drought with them. Duke took a nine-point lead before Walker hit a jumper in the paint to break the three-minute scoring drought to bring the score to 27-20.
The first half was much of the same for MSU despite the hot start from Hall — not enough shots were falling for the green and white and the Blue Devils had far too many opportunities at the free-throw line.
By halftime, Michigan State was 9-31 from the field and just 2-13 from three, and gave up 11 points to Duke via trips to the charity stripe.
At the start of the second, Hall yet again had the first scoring opportunity off a fast break for a quick layup and then hit a wide-open three on the team’s next drive. Hall had seven quick points to get the Spartan crowd at United Center on their feet.
Michigan State went on an 11-4 scoring run to open up the second half — flipping the script and forcing a Duke timeout just over three minutes after play resumed.
After the Duke timeout, the Blue Devils slowly worked at building their lead back up making just about every shot they put up turning the four-point lead back into a twelve-point one.
Malik Hall was a large part in fueling Michigan State’s fire, but with four fouls and over ten minutes left in the game, Hall was sent to the bench, and the Spartans suffered without him on the floor initially, but eventually found their groove.
Walker got into his typical rhythm in the final ten minutes hitting two threes and assisting a Coen Carr dunk that made the United Center go wild. The Spartans went on an 8-0 run in just over a minute making the score 51-48, forcing Duke to take another timeout to regroup.
Seemingly every time Michigan State started gaining speed and closing in on the Duke lead, the Spartans were called on a foul, and the Blue Devils had even more opportunities at the free-throw line to grow their lead.
Down eight points with 1:21 left, the Spartans started intentionally fouling the Blue Devils in an attempt to save time and build their lead, but with an 81% free throw percentage, the Spartan's efforts were fruitless, and Michigan State fell to Duke.
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