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MSU men's basketball team experiments with lineups in crucial win over Southern Indiana

November 10, 2023
Freshman forward Coen Carr (55) while his teammate shoots a free throw during a game against Southern Indiana at the Breslin Center on Nov. 9, 2023. The Spartans defeated the Screaming Eagles 74-51.
Freshman forward Coen Carr (55) while his teammate shoots a free throw during a game against Southern Indiana at the Breslin Center on Nov. 9, 2023. The Spartans defeated the Screaming Eagles 74-51.

After a tough opening night loss to James Madison, the Michigan State men's basketball team found a way to win its first game of the season. Following the loss to JMU, head coach Tom Izzo admitted he was disappointed with some of the leaders in the starting lineup and could potentially look into some changes in the lineups in the games following. 

During their crucial 74-51 win over the University of Southern Indiana, the Spartans displayed multiple lineups throughout the game. This resulted in an equal dispersal in minutes for most of the players who saw action. 

This allowed all the players–veterans and new guys–to showcase their worth during crucial minutes in the game. Izzo spoke following the game about why the coaching staff decided to share the minutes evenly and what the plan is moving forward. 

"You know and I know we're not going to play everybody twenty minutes. We almost did that tonight for a reason, and we'll use a lot of that to see now and start separating playing time a little bit more," Izzo said after the game. 

There were no changes to the starting lineup, which resulted well for the Spartans since four of the five starts finished in double figures. However, this game allowed the freshman forward Xavier Booker and freshman guard Jeremy Fears Jr to see the floor more.

Neither player had the biggest impact on the scoreboard, but both created some big moments for the offense at different points in the game.

Early in the second quarter, the Screaming Eagles began to take a notch out of the MSU lead after junior forward Jack Mielke led them to a 12-0 run. Booker played a crucial part in stopping the 12-0 run and getting the offense going again when he scored back-to-back points in the paint. 

Those four points ended up being the only points Booker had in the game, so there is still more to be seen as far as his offensive potential, but coach Izzo believes in Booker, and he believes that the freshman has shown progress. 

"I love Xavier Booker. He's just got to get a lot stronger and a lot tougher mentally, and we knew that. He knew that. His family knows that, and we're just gonna work on it every day. Believe it or not, he's made some progress," coach Izzo said after their win on Thursday. 

Fears also played some crucial moments ing helping others find open shots in the second half after a slow stretch from the offense. Fears played clean basketball at the point guard position, gathering five assists with no turnovers, and he finished with two steals. 

Izzo commended fears for being such a young player who is already capable of showing his leadership skills and believes that he is a tough and vocal player who will help them as that season progresses. 

"He (Fears Jr.) can get after it," Izzo said. "He made a nice jump shot. He threw a couple of lobs that should have been and ended up with five assists and no turnovers, I believe. That's incredible stats for him. Pretty good defense, five assists, no turnovers in eighteen and a half minutes of play; that's a good night."

Graduate student forward Malik Hall has been one of the main players, seeing consistent minutes in his last few seasons with the Spartans. Hall was one of the few players that saw more minutes in the crunch time of the game against the Soaring Eagles because he was one of the better performers throughout the night. 

Hall finished with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and he shot 100% at the free-throw line. Hall found himself playing in a variety of different lineups that included more of the younger Spartan faces, and he said that watching and playing with them makds him excited. 

"It makes me excited. I think that's the beautiful part about this opportunity that we have every single day. I get to see everyone around me grow every day. I get to see them struggle every single day," Hall said after the game. "So when things start to click for people it makes me happy."

The Spartans won't get the chance to do as much "experimenting" as coach Izzo called it in their next matchup against No. 2 ranked Duke. Even so, Izzo believes that the team will continue to grow and that it is all a part of the process. 

"I don't think I'm going to try to experiment at all next week. That game, I think it will be a little bigger, so you know, we’ll see what happens," Izzo said. "The stronger and tougher guys are going to play more, but it’s going to take a little time." 

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