Michigan State basketball

© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball: 3 positive signs from exhibition opener

Michigan State basketball opened exhibition play vs. Grand Valley and came away with a win thanks to some guys underrated stepping up.

The official start of Michigan State basketball’s 2022-23 season isn’t until Nov. 7 against Northern Arizona but Tuesday night’s exhibition opener still gave us a good look at this year’s squad.

We saw the Spartans fall behind by five at the half and then come out firing in the final 20 minutes to win 73-56. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but Michigan State shook off some rust and overcame some ice-cold shooting from deep to come out of exhibition play unscathed.

Tom Izzo used this game as a learning lesson for his team and while there were some shortcomings (depth, shooting), there were some positives as well.

1. Guard play was as advertised

There’s talk that Michigan State has the best backcourt in the Big Ten this year and that notion was only strengthened against Grand Valley. Both Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard looked great on both ends of the floor and kind of controlled the game.

Hoggard finished with 14 points and five assists, making both 3-point attempts, and defensively he had five steals. He kind of picked up where he left off last year. Walker had 12 points, four assists, and six steals.

If these guys can combine for 20-plus points, 10 assists, and a handful of steals every game, the Spartans are going to be really tough to beat. Their combination of strong defense and solid offense was impressive.

Tre Holloman even looked comfortable at the point.

Keep in mind, Michigan State’s backcourt looked great even without Jaden Akins.

2. Mady Sissoko’s growth

All eyes were on Mady Sissoko as the game tipped off on Tuesday night. I know I was watching closely because I’ve been all in on the Mady hype train this offseason.

I think everyone was pleasantly surprised with his play and the fact that he avoided foul trouble was a major bonus. He finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, and didn’t miss a single shot from the floor. Though he looked lost, at times, on the defensive end, he showed off some athleticism by making sure he didn’t give up any easy shots on a beat.

Sissoko looked much more polished against Grand Valley. But then again, it was Grand Valley.

3. New guys looked comfortable

We saw three newcomers playing against Grand Valley and it was the perfect opportunity for them to get their feet wet and get a taste of college hoops.

Holloman, as mentioned earlier, looked comfortable running the point. He was rocking the familiar No. 5 (hopefully this gets retired soon) with a headband and had the same calm demeanor with the ball in his hands. Tre had no problem hoisting up open shots, but he was off on those attempts. Still, I was impressed with him running the floor and the offense.

Jaxon Kohler was a little too jacked up in the first half and settled down in the second half. He made three nice-looking buckets and showed some energy. It felt like the team was feeding off his emotion.

Lastly, there was Carson Cooper who didn’t look as raw as I was expecting. He had himself a nice game, scoring a couple of points from the free throw stripe and he had an impressive block in the second half. Cooper looked strong and long out there.

Michigan State basketball will be back on the floor on Nov. 7 against Northern Arizona in East Lansing.

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