Michigan State traveled to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday for a season-opening date with No. 3 Kansas in the tenth-annual Champions Classic. Tom Izzo's club battled hard but ultimately fell short in a 87-74 defeat.
The Spartans went toe-to-toe with the Jayhawks through the first 16 minutes of play, holding a 31-30 lead with four minutes before halftime. Things started going downhill from there, however, as Kansas closed the half with a 9-1 run to take a 39-32 lead at the break.
The Jayhawks never surrendered the lead after that, and Michigan State wasn't never able to put a threatening run together in the second half.
1. AJ Hoggard shines off the bench
Point guard AJ Hoggard came off the bench behind Tyson Walker tonight, but the sophomore will find himself in the starting lineup soon if he continues to perform like he did tonight. Hoggard had 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while adding 4 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal. The sophomore was Michigan State's best player on Tuesday night, and that's a great sign for the Spartans moving forward.
2. Spartans' rebounding concerns unfounded?
On Monday at his press conference, Tom Izzo expressed concern about how well Michigan State would rebound both in this game and moving forward. However, the Spartans more than held their own on the glass, out-rebounding the Jayhawks 40-30 on the night. Bingham (7), Hauser (7) and Marble II (7) tied for the lead in the rebounding effort, and Izzo will like the balance on the glass from his guys. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the Spartans moving forward.
3. Balanced scoring effort
Hoggard led the way in the scoring department for Michigan State, but the sophomore had plenty of support. True freshman Max Christie acquitted himself well in his first collegiate game, scoring 9 points and going 2-of-4 from three-point range. Meanwhile, the quartet of Julius Marble II (13 points), Marcus Bingham Jr. (10 points), Gabe Brown (10 points), Joey Hauser (8 points) provided balanced scoring for Michigan State. Izzo and the Spartans will look to build on these performances.
1. Poor Assist-Turnover ratio
Turnovers are something we here a lot about from Tom Izzo, and he won't be pleased with how loose his Spartans were with the ball tonight. Michigan State had 10 turnovers in the first half, and finished with 16 for the game. The Spartans' giveaways led to 16 points for Kansas, and that will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the Spartans.
Michigan State didn't move the ball around offensively very effectively either, finishing the game with just 12 assists. That's understandable on some degree with this being the season-opener. Guys are still learning to play with one another, and there were several new pieces in the rotation tonight. However, better court vision and ball movement needs to be addressed moving forward.
2. Free throw discrepancy
The Spartans didn't get to the free throw line often enough, and struggled when they did find themselves at the charity stripe. Michigan State shot just 9-of-16 (56.3 percent) from the foul line. That's not nearly good enough. Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, the Spartans sent Kansas to the foul line too much, and the Jayhawks made them pay. Kansas finished 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) from the charity stripe. That was a huge discrepancy that was a key factor in Kansas' victory.
3. Tyson Walker struggles
The transfer from Northeastern didn't look comfortable at any point on Tuesday night in the Garden. Walker picked up a couple quick fouls, had 3 turnovers and went 1-for-3 from the floor for just 2 points. It was a frustrating first game in the Green and White for the junior point guard. Walker averaged 18.8 points and 4.8 assists for the Huskies a season ago. Izzo probably doesn't expect him to replicate those numbers for Michigan State, but hopefully Walker will settle in better as the season progresses.