Monday, June 17, 2024

MSU men's basketball handles No. 6 Baylor in 88-64 revival victory

December 16, 2023
<p>Freshman forward Coen Carr (55) preparing to dunk the ball during a game against Baylor University at the Little Caesar’s Arena on Dec. 16, 2023. Carr would make the dunk attempt, helping the Spartans to a half-time lead of 45-17.</p>

Freshman forward Coen Carr (55) preparing to dunk the ball during a game against Baylor University at the Little Caesar’s Arena on Dec. 16, 2023. Carr would make the dunk attempt, helping the Spartans to a half-time lead of 45-17.

Defend, rebound and run. It’s been the mantra for Michigan State basketball for 29 seasons under head coach Tom Izzo, a mantra Izzo said his team needed to return to following a 4-5 start and two losses to open Big Ten play. 

MSU executed the Hall-of-Fame coach’s slogan to a tee Saturday afternoon in its unforeseen 88-64 beatdown of Baylor. The team controlled the glass, swallowed the Bears up defensively and turned their missed shots and turnovers into points on the other end. 

Baylor was simply overwhelmed for most of the game by MSU’s defensive tenacity, falling behind by double digits early on and failing to regain enough momentum to make a dent in the Spartans’ lead. 

The Spartans outrebounded the Bears 29 to 20, held them to 31 percent from three-point land and scored 29 points off 21 Baylor turnovers. It was exactly the kind of win MSU needed to boost both its confidence and resume, especially over a highly-touted program like Baylor. 

Michigan State graduate student guard Tyson Walker was once again sensational for the Spartans. He got them going early with four threes and stellar defense on Baylor lead guard Ja’Kobe Walter. Walker finished with 25 points on 4-for-4 shooting from behind the arc, adding to his impressive scoring campaign. He continues to be MSU’s main man offensively.  

MSU senior guard A.J. Hoggard, who’s beginning to look like his normal, aggressive self, turned in one of his more efficient performances of the season, tallying 14 points and 5 assists in a game where he had complete control of the Spartan offense and had his way in transition. Sophomore guard Tre Holloman was a perfect compliment to Walker and Hoggard, doing his part to smother Baylor defensively while contributing 11 points and 2 steals. 

In any given contest where MSU gets such strong performances from Walker, Hoggard and Holloman, it's a tough team to beat. 

An energetic start by MSU sent Detroit’s Spartan faithful into a frenzy — the Spartans were all over the glass. Walker buried a three on its first possession, which senior center Mady Sissoko followed with an offensive put-back the next time down. Minutes later, Walker hit another three off an offensive rebound to give the Spartans a 12-7 lead at the game’s first media timeout. 

Walker kept cooking, drilling two more triples as part of a 10-0 Spartan run out of the timeout to put MSU up 12, a night-and-day difference between its starts in losses to James Madison, Duke, Arizona and Wisconsin.  

More lockdown defense and rebounding saw MSU’s 12-point lead climb to as much as 30 in the first half, highlighted by a patented Coen Carr alley-oop finish via Hoggard and a Walker bucket in transition. 

Baylor, down 28 at the half and in danger of getting run out of Little Caesars Arena, responded in a big way to begin the second half. The Bears came out aggressive and hungry, forcing several Spartan turnovers en route to reducing their deficit to 20 points. 

But MSU fired back with a run of its own, thanks to Hoggard. He converted on a driving and-one before throwing a lob to junior guard Jaden Akins for a jam to bring the fans back on their feet in Detroit. 

From there, holding a 25-point advantage, the Spartans settled back into their first-half form on both ends and coasted to their first meaningful win of the season, 88-64. 

Saturday proved that the Michigan State team ranked No. 4 to begin the season is still well within this Spartans group and can come alive at any given moment. Rocky shooting stretches coupled with shortcomings defensively and on the glass held the Spartans down through nine games. But against Baylor, they showed they can be a force to be reckoned with at their best.

Michigan State has just one day off before hosting Oakland on Monday, Dec. 18 at the Breslin Center. Tip-off between the Spartans and Golden Grizzlies is slated for 2 p.m.

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