Another test, another success.
No. 2 Michigan State (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) got a fight from Oakland (6-5) at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Saturday, but the Spartans won 86-73. They have won nine games in a row.
Michigan State found itself in a battle in the second half, trailing at several points because of hot shooting from Oakland. But Michigan State got second opportunities and hit the shots it needed to against the Golden Grizzlies’ zone defense. Cassius Winston scored the Spartans’ final 14 points to close it out.
WHY: Once again, Michigan State dominated defensively inside the paint. But the Golden Grizzlies kept themselves in it with long-range shooting, including an unconscious effort from Kendrick Nunn. He had 32, while no one else on either team had 20. Eventually Michigan State’s depth wore down its opponent, as it has done and will continue to do this season.
WHAT IT MEANS: Michigan State will get its opponent’s best throughout the season. That is what happens when you have the talent the Spartans do. Oakland put a talented team on the floor like it does just about every season, and those players played with energy from start to finish. Michigan State will play with a target on its back this season, and how it handles that pressure will determine this group’s success.
WHO STARRED: Nick Ward. He only scored 4 of his 15 points in the second half, but he kept possessions alive for Michigan State with 6 offensive rebounds. The Spartans had 21 second-chance points to Oakland’s 6, largely because of Ward’s work. Jaren Jackson Jr. did his part as well, grabbing 4 offensive boards. Those extra opportunities seemed to make up for the turnovers that plagued Michigan State.
WHO STUMBLED: The point guards. It’s tough to criticize Winston when he scored Michigan State’s final 14 points, but the sophomore also had 6 turnovers. He and Tum Tum Nairn got themselves in trouble by driving the lane, getting caught in the air and trying to toss it back out to the perimeter. Winston also got several passes tipped as he tried to go over the top. The Spartans had 17 turnovers, and 8 came from Winston and Nairn.
WHO WAS THERE: A whole lot of people. The doubleheader brought 20,645 fans to Little Caesars Arena, largely Michigan State supporters. The new venue never had hosted that many people before.
JUST IN: Today’s attendance for the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase is 20,645 – the largest crowd in the history of Little Caesars Arena! pic.twitter.com/RXbuSg242U
— Little Caesars Arena (@LCArena_Detroit) December 16, 2017
WHO IS NEXT: Michigan State will get only one day of rest before returning to action against Houston Baptist at home on Monday. The game tips off at 6 p.m. ET on BTN.
There's your final. Michigan State is now 16-0 against Oakland all-time. pic.twitter.com/DeMVtaoDRW
— Luke Srodulski (@lsrodulski) December 16, 2017