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Michigan State men's basketball connects on both ends, beats Mississippi State

March 21, 2024
<p>The Michigan State Spartans take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 21, 2024.</p>

The Michigan State Spartans take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 21, 2024.

The Spartans are still dancing.

Michigan State men’s basketball opened up March Madness with a battle of the MSUs where the Spartans took down Mississippi State 69-51 to advance to the Round of 32.

Much like during the Big Ten Tournament, head coach Tom Izzo opted to start sophomore center Carson Cooper over senior center Mady Sissoko with his typical veteran lineup.

Although the Spartans didn’t win the tipoff, they got off to a quick start. The first two Mississippi State possessions were fruitless for the Bulldogs, but junior guard Jaden Akins sunk a three-pointer to kick off the game followed by another quick three from graduate student guard Tyson Walker.

Mississippi State eventually found an offensive rhythm, but the Spartans were off running early. With 12:14 left in the first half, Michigan State held a ten-point lead with the help of four threes and complete dominance at the boards.

Mississippi State ramped up its efforts on both ends of the court after Michigan State took a double-digit lead. The Bulldogs were able to force some Spartan turnovers and capitalize on the other end of the floor, but after a timeout, Michigan State was back and ready to fight for its lead.

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Akins struggled to knock down shots in the Big Ten tournament, but the junior was an early option on the perimeter for Michigan State. He logged eight points in the first half with three rebounds.

Bulldog star freshman Josh Hubbard ignited towards the end of the first half and became a problem beyond the arc for the Green and White. He sunk three three-pointers and led both teams in scoring heading into the locker rooms with 13 points.

A last-second layup from graduate student forward Malik Hall sent the Spartans into halftime with a seven-point advantage, 31-24. Michigan State won the battle at the boards 16-10 and shot 54.2% from the floor in comparison to 40.0% from the Bulldogs.

The largest problem in the first half for Michigan State was its inability to handle the ball. The Spartans turned the ball over nine times over the course of the first 20 minutes.

Nearly four minutes into the second half, the Spartans once again built up a double-digit lead off of continued solid offensive performances from Hall, Akins and Walker, but also stifling defensive that kept the Bulldogs scoreless for over three minutes.

After the Bulldog drought, both teams started hitting nearly every shot they put up, including threes from sophomore guard Tre Holloman and freshman forward Xavier Booker.

The Spartans were in sync and everyone on the floor was contributing in one way or another—something that has not always been the case this season.

After a lot of criticism throughout the season, Sissoko played one of his better games of basketball yet. He grabbed nine rebounds to give his teammates plenty of opportunities at second-chance points.

With 55.7 seconds in and a 15-point lead, Izzo subbed in senior guard Davis Smith and graduate student guard Steven Izzo. Smith capped off the game with a three-pointer assisted by none other than Steven Izzo to close it out 69-51.

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Michigan State will be back in action in Charlotte on Saturday, March 23. Time and opponent are still to be decided.

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