MSU began a promising season with a historic loss
East Lansing - Michigan State did something it had never done under Tom Izzo Monday night.
#4 ranked Michigan State university got off to a slow start once again (see: Tennessee exhibition finale), and allowed James Madison University to establish itself on both ends of the floor, losing to the Dukes 79-76 on opening night. It was legendary Spartan Men’s coach Tom Izzo’s first time losing on opening night, and the first loss in the month of November in Izzo’s illustrious career.
Similar to that Tennessee exhibition matchup, JMU’s early ball pressure on MSU guards above the 3-point line led to transition opportunities and wore on MSU guards early. MSU beat itself, getting where it wanted to on drives, but not converting. Some of it had to do with JMU fouling on those drives, but ultimately there were missed opportunities by a guard group usually confident around the rim. And though JMU fouled early and often, it didn't create easy points for Sparty, they shot 62% from the charity stripe in the game.
Tyson Walker was a force attacking the JMU defense all night long, keeping MSU in striking distance with his steady play. Walker's shot making is MSU’s best weapon and when he’s aggressive on the defensive boards it allows MSU to get into its best fast breaks. He showed that, snagging a couple defensive boards early. However Tyson went 0-5 from 3, a stat that certainly contributed to a night of woes.
As a team MSU shot 1/20 from deep.
Coen Carr was also a bright spot, contributing 14 points on 5/6 shooting. Carr’s play was the only thing Izzo liked from the night, “I think Coen played a good game,” Izzo said postgame. “I think all the freshmen played well,” he stated.
His upperclassmen, specifically those in the starting lineup, simply didn't get it done. Tyson Walker finished with 35 points, but Sissoko, Hoggard, Akins, and Malik Hall – all returning from that deep march team of last year – combined to shoot 8/36 from the field and only 5 FT’s made (Hoggard had all 5).
Yes, MSU will bounce back. No, you should not panic. Michigan State faced a tough James Madison University team that is penciled in to compete for a conference championship and berth in the big dance come March.
This was JMU’s first win against a Top 5 opponent in program history. Terrence Edwards contributed 24, TJ Bickerstaff added 21 points, and 2nd string guard Michael Green added 13 points for the Dukes.
Top 3 Things I liked:
Jeremy Fears and his communication: Fears will be the next great MSU PG. He simply is too good at the small things. Taking defense personally. Allowing Izzo to rip his game apart when he makes mistakes. Communication on the court with his teammates. The kid is mentally special, and is gifted physically. He’ll be great.
Tyson Walker shot-making: The guy’s uncanny ability to take and make tough shots at any point in a game will bode well for a team with title aspirations. He simply won't be denied when they need it in the biggest moments.
Postgame comments from the upperclassmen: Malik Hall and Jaden Akins both owned a tough loss. While they were visibly upset, both articulated where growth needs to happen and seemed ready to attack practice to learn from their mistakes in an uncharacteristic loss.
1 Thing I Didn’t Like:
MSU’s guards above the 3 point line: Shooting 1/20 from deep and losing the ball. The shooting can be attributed to game 1 jitters. But, at points throughout the game, MSU guards allowed James Madison defenders to take the ball right out of their hands and push a break. It happened a few times against Tennessee as well. While Jaden Akins, Tyson Walker, AJ Hoggard and company are wiz’s with the ball, they will need to take care of the ball better if they hope to stay competitive at the top of the national rankings all year.