Michigan State displayed a well-balanced attack in its Big Ten opener. The 19th-ranked Spartans will look for similar results in their conference home opener on Saturday against Penn State at East Lansing, Mich.
Saturday’s contest represents Michigan State’s only remaining Big Ten game this month. The Spartans (8-2, 1-0) will play just two more games in December — nonconference matchups against Oakland (Dec. 21) and High Point (Dec. 29).
Malik Hall, Gabe Brown and Tyson Walker scored 15 points apiece in the Spartans’ 75-67 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday. Michigan State led by double digits most of the game while shooting 48.1 percent from the field, including a 10-for-21 success rate from beyond the arc.
“The 3-point shooting has been off the charts. We’ve put a lot into that,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said of his club, which is shooting 38.0 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Walker, a Northeastern transfer, added three assists in 24 minutes. He has 19 assists over the past three games, all victories.
“Tyson Walker is getting better each and every game, making plays,” Izzo said. “Other than the four turnovers (Wednesday), I thought he had a hell of a game.”
Turnovers have been the biggest issue for the Spartans this season. They committed 13 against the Golden Gophers, leading to 13 points.
“They turned us over at the end, that cost us about eight points and that was disappointing for me,” Izzo said. “It is still to the point where we don’t finish games, and maybe we’re practicing how to play in close games late. It just doesn’t make it as enjoyable when you’re done.”
Still, it was a lot more enjoyable than last season’s visit to Minneapolis. Michigan State dropped an 81-56 decision in that contest.
“It was very important, because the first game means a lot,” Brown said. “Last year, we started off 0-3 (in the conference) … so the first game always matters. We needed this win and we’re just ready for the next one.”
In their lone meeting with the Nittany Lions last season, the Spartans eked out a 60-58 victory.
Penn State (5-4, 0-1) lost its Big Ten opener on Sunday to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions bounced back with a 74-54 nonconference victory over Wagner on Wednesday. Jalen Pickett and Sam Sessoms led by way with 16 points apiece against the Seahawks.
“I thought it was the best we’ve played,” coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “We’ve got to be even better on Saturday.”
The Nittany Lions outrebounded their opponent for the seventh time in nine games. Shrewsberry is concerned how his team will hold up in that area against the Spartans.
In an overtime loss to LSU last month, Penn State gave up 17 offensive rebounds and got outrebounded by a 42-35 margin. He sees similarities between the Tigers and Spartans.
“LSU, they’ve got a bunch of superheroes running from halfcourt and flying in to the rim,” Shrewsberry said. “Michigan State will be a challenge because that’s what they do but if we stay sound, we stay solid and stay in good defensive position, it will help our rebounding.”
This also will be Penn State’s last Big Ten matchup this month. It will play VCU (Dec. 18), Quinnipiac (Dec. 22) and Delaware State (Dec. 29).
–Field Level Media