Durham, NC – Michigan State opened its road trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, shooting 1-for-8, trailing 11-3 with 15:40 left.
Thomas Kithier and Joey Hauser were on the bench due to foul trouble, and the Spartans struggled defensively in transition.
The Blue Devils looked faster and stronger than Michigan State, but eventually, MSU settled in.
Michigan State's offense ran differently, as they didn't pick up their first assist until nearly 12-minutes into the contest, unusual for a team who prided itself on sharing the basketball against EMU and Notre Dame (27 field goals on nine assists).
But credit Duke's pressure defense for that.
With the clock reading 7:39, MSU pulled within three points, shooting 28.6% from the field, slightly better than the Blue Devils at that point (27.8%), and kept chipping away at the lead.
Sophomore big man Julius Marble (scored a career-high 12-points), Malik Hall, and team captain Foster Loyer deserve a ton of credit for keeping Michigan State in the ballgame; the Spartan reserves played a huge role in turning things around after a slow start.
MSU ended the initial 20-minutes on a 13-4 run; for a majority of the first half, Aaron Henry made it difficult on Duke, getting by anyone in front of him and dropping five shots in the hoop for 10-points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block.
The second half told a different story; Hauser hit a bucket to start, then a three from Joshua Langford, some help from Rocket Watts (20-points on the night), and another from, you guessed it, Hauser.
In a quick turnaround, Michigan State went from being down 10-points to leading by 15.
Defensively, the Spartans were on a different level, and tonight they proved the run vs. Notre Dame wasn't false advertising.
They are a force to be reckoned with, and their new leader, Henry, is showing why he deserves to be First-Team All-Big Ten.
At one point, fans saw him jumping up and down on the sidelines coaching his team alongside Tom Izzo; the longtime Spartan wanted Henry to take the next step as a leader.
I'd say it's been taken.
Even though it got dicey at the end, MSU put together another tremendous team effort, closing out Duke 75-69 and clinching its first victory vs. the Blue Devils on the road.
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