Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Preview: MSU men's basketball to take on deep Minnesota team at home

January 17, 2024
MSU Graduate Student Guard Tyson Walker (2) directs a play during their game matchup against Wisconsin at the Breslin Center on Dec. 5, 2023. MSU would go on to lose 57-70 against 23 Wisconsin.
MSU Graduate Student Guard Tyson Walker (2) directs a play during their game matchup against Wisconsin at the Breslin Center on Dec. 5, 2023. MSU would go on to lose 57-70 against 23 Wisconsin.

After returning to the winning column Sunday afternoon against Rutgers, the Michigan State men’s basketball team will be back home Thursday night to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Golden Gophers are coming into East Lansing with a 12-5 record overall and a 3-3 conference record. Despite the solid record so far, the only team that Minnesota has defeated on the road were the 7-10 Michigan Wolverines.

The Spartans are fairly solid at home winning nine of 11 matchups at the Breslin Center this season, and with the return of the Izzone last Saturday, the Breslin will likely be a tough venue for the Golden Gophers — especially coming off a two-game losing skid.

While Minnesota is coming in after some tough losses, the Spartans are coming in after a 73-55 confidence booster against the Scarlet Knights.

Prior to Michigan State's back-to-back losses on the road last week against Northwestern and Illinois, the Spartans were playing the best basketball they had been all year. The road trip seemed to beat down the team's confidence a little, and they even looked a little hesitant at the start of the game against Rutgers. By the time the second half got going, shots started falling and MSU got some of its swagger back.

"I think this team is the best Minnesota team I've seen in years,” head coach Tom Izzo said in a press conference Tuesday. "That's why they've won three games and got a road win. So, when it's all said and done … the better we defend, the better we rebound — which we've done a better job of the last two games — the better we'll run, and the better team we will be. So, sounds pretty simple to me."

The Spartans are shooting significantly better than they were at the start of the season, and their defensive success was on full display Sunday afternoon. But, the Spartans still have shown trouble guarding on the perimeter — which is not ideal having to take on Minnesota guard Mike Mitchell Jr

Although Mitchell has struggled a little as of late, he still averages 38.5% from beyond the arc.

Another big impact player for the Golden Gophers is guard Elijah Hawkins. Hawkins leads the nation in assists and has a huge hand to play in Minnesota's operation. According to Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press, Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson said Wednesday that Hawkins potentially playing is a game-time decision due to an ankle sprain in the matchup against Iowa on Monday. 

Losing Hawkins for a game would not be easy for Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers have a decently deep bench and could still very much compete in the Breslin Center.

As for the Spartan squad, Izzo said on Tuesday that although graduate student guard Tyson Walker is playing great offensively, averaging 19.9 points a game, he wants to see more out of his star player.

"I said to him, 'You had to improve in two areas,'" Izzo said. "'One of them is simple. I mean, get that defensive chip on your shoulder back.' Because, I mean, he's been good defensively, but he was great at times. So, that one's simple. The other one is, 'Express yourself a little bit more. You're one of the best players, not only on our team, but in the whole conference and one of the better players in the country.'"

The East Lansing matchup will start at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on FS1. 

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Preview: MSU men's basketball to take on deep Minnesota team at home” on social media.