Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans defeated Duke, 75-69, at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time.
Sure, the Hall of Famer wishes people could have seen it in person, but the results remain the same, regardless of fans.
"I know one thing; I'm not gonna put this as an asterisk … it was a good win for us against a good team and a great program," said Izzo.
When the Spartans were down 10-points early, playing sloppy, taking errant shots, turning the ball over, and getting into foul trouble, they looked towards their depth and athleticism for help.
Junior captain Foster Loyer, Malik Hall, and Julius Marble combined for 27 points and 17 rebounds to leave Durham, NC, on top of the Champions Classic.
"If you get hit the first couple times, you gotta know how to respond. Those are those are where the champions stand," MSU forward Aaron Henry told reporters in a videoconference. "All players and all teams get hit, but it's how you respond and how you sustain yourself in the fight. And I felt like we did a good job of that."
After shaking off a slow start, Michigan State swarmed the Blue Devils defensively, forcing 12 turnovers, a low percentage from three-point land (21.7%), six steals, and three blocks.
"Our defense is traveling. I don't think we were as good as we were for 30 minutes of that Notre Dame game," Izzo said. "This was a harder team to cover."
The challenges Duke presented led to Rocket Watts recording his first start of the 2020 season, where he scored 20-points.
However, Loyer's defense and his ability to draw charges swung momentum towards the Spartans.
He brings a change of pace when on the floor and tries to calm things down while sharing the basketball.
Against Duke, MSU's reserves showed up in full force.
Following halftime, there wasn't a ton of looking back for Michigan State; they took a commanding 16-point lead coming off a 17-5 run with loads of time left.
The Spartans were forced to stave off a last-ditch effort by the Blue Devils, who cut it to eight points with 36.3 seconds remaining, but MSU hung on, capturing its second victory vs. Duke in less than two years.
"For the things he's done for me, and all the times that he's had my back behind closed doors … that's the least I can do for him," Henry said of Izzo. "He's helped me out in more ways than just getting the win for him tonight, and I'm very appreciative of that. I'm happy for coach and the career he's had."
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