Monday, June 17, 2024

No. 4 MSU men's basketball shocked by James Madison in 79-76 upset for the ages

November 6, 2023
<p>Graduate student guard Tyson Walker (2) boxing out sophomore forward Jerell Roberson (33) during a game between Michigan State and James Madison University at the Breslin Student Events Center on Nov. 6, 2023.</p>

Graduate student guard Tyson Walker (2) boxing out sophomore forward Jerell Roberson (33) during a game between Michigan State and James Madison University at the Breslin Student Events Center on Nov. 6, 2023.

James Madison University pulled off an early-season shocker over the No. 4 Michigan State men’s basketball team Monday night on the back of 24 points from redshirt junior wing Terrence Edwards Jr. coupled with execution and shot-making in the final minutes. 

MSU came back from down 13 early in the first half, possessing a slim lead for the back half of the second before the Dukes knotted it up on their final possession and overtook the Spartans late in OT.

Fans filled the Breslin Center eager to watch the Spartans tip off their most anticipated season since before the pandemic and left disappointed.

An abysmal performance from the Spartans in the opening 12 minutes dug them an early hole. For a while, it looked like the college basketball world may have an opening-night top-five upset on its hands – and it did. 

The pregame antics at Breslin quickly died down as the Spartans started the game 1-for-9 from the field and went through a near three-minute scoring drought, falling behind as much as 13 in the first half.

Free-throw shooting was, once again, the story of the game. MSU missed 14 out of 37 attempts from the charity stripe, leaving crucial points off the board in a game that was decided by two. 

To say Michigan State started cold from the field and the charity stripe would be an understatement. At the under-eight timeout in the first half, the Spartans were a whopping 2-for-10 from the free-throw line and 0-for-5 from behind the arc. 

Edwards Jr., the Dukes’ go-to man on both sides of the floor, was as advertised in the first half, as was graduate student forward T.J. Bickerstaff, who had his way on the glass for a large chunk of the game. 

Much to the chagrin of head coach Tom Izzo and MSU, the notably undersized Dukes grabbed four offensive rebounds in the opening ten minutes and forced a pair of turnovers. 

At the halftime break, JMU held a 37-33 lead, out-rebounding the Spartans by six in the opening 20 minutes. MSU shot nine more free throws than JMU in the first half but converted on just one more than the Dukes. 

Izzo did not hesitate to check his freshman into the game after falling behind double digits, subbing in guard Jeremy Fears Jr. alongside forwards Xavier Booker and Coen Carr

Similar to MSU’s exhibition against Tennessee, sophomore center Carson Cooper was the first Spartan off the bench against the Dukes, replacing senior Mady Sissoko. Cooper also started the second half in place of Sissoko. 

Between the missed free throws, sloppy offensive play and not boxing out, the Spartans sure didn’t look like the nation’s No. 4 team through 12 minutes of play. 

Then, Walker began to heat up, scoring a handful of buckets to bring the Spartans within just five with two minutes to play in the first half. Carr also had a significant hand in the spark, recording a pair of and-ones and continuing to show he’s a game-changer with his sheer athleticism.

Though the Spartans found their footing late in the first half, they had some ground to make up to prove their worth.

Right out of the break, MSU graduate student forward Malik Hall found the scoreboard, getting a pair of buckets down low to tie the game. Akins recorded his first points shortly after on a drive, giving MSU its first lead of the night at 42-41.

The Breslin Center came to life moments later after Walker and senior guard AJ Hoggard executed buddy ball at its finest in transition, putting the Spartans up two with just over 10 minutes to play. 

Even after MSU extended its lead to six, the Dukes refused to be put away. JMU graduate student guard Michael Green III nailed a three to cut the lead in half, followed by a paint bucket to trim the Spartan advantage to just one. 

With three and a half minutes to play, the Spartans led by just two over James Madison. 

After a solid amount of back-and-forth, Walker scored eight straight points for the Spartans capped off by a crucial steal for an easy lay-in going the other way. 

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The Dukes would’ve had a chance to tie or take the lead with under two minutes to play, but Walker came out of nowhere to swipe it away.

Breslin Center fell quiet as Bickerstaff nailed a 15-footer to tie the game with 30 seconds left. Walker tried to iso-ball it for the win in regulation but was stood up by excellent perimeter defense.

The Dukes held a three-point lead with under two minutes to play in overtime, which Walker nearly erased with a driving score plus the foul, but he missed the free throw. 

Up by one in their last possession, JMU solidified their advantage on a three-pointer from junior forward Raekwon Horton. The Spartans had a shot with 2.8 seconds to tie things up, but Walker had it stripped from behind, bringing JMU’s improbable upset bid to life. 

Give a ton of credit to the Dukes, who clawed the entire way to topple the No. 4 team in the land on opening night in the Breslin Center.

The Spartans return to Breslin Thursday night, facing off against Southern Indiana at 7 p.m. 

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