Michigan State basketball opened its 2022-23 season with an exhibition battle against Grand Valley State on Tuesday.
After watching the football team struggle all year, Michigan State basketball was supposed to be a palate cleanser for Spartan fans.
That wasn’t entirely the case on Tuesday night as the Spartans hosted Grand Valley for an exhibition opener and trailed by five points at halftime with the Lakers shooting lights out.
Michigan State opened the second half with much more focus and took that lead back early on and the run was sparked by a Joey Hauser and-one to begin the second frame. The Spartans took what was once a 7-point deficit and turned it into a healthy lead in the second half. They pulled away and won 73-56.
Not everything was perfect, but there were definitely some positive takeaways from this one.
1. Jaxon Kohler is going to be fun
When Jaxon Kohler checked in for Mady Sissoko in the first half, he kind of looked like a deer in headlights. There were some nerves there and he came out pretty shortly after. But the second half was a different story.
Kohler didn’t play a ton, but he showed his package of moves from a turnaround jumper to grabbing an offensive board and putting it right back up to improvement on defense. He looked like a freshman who could play a ton this year and hold his own. He has an impressive arsenal and I want to see a lot of it this year.
Kohler might be a bigger problem for some opposing big men this year than we thought.
2. Mady Sissoko looked much better
Sissoko was the one guy I was most looking forward to seeing on Tuesday night and he didn’t disappoint. The junior big man was assuming a larger role with Marcus Bingham Jr. and Julius Marble both gone and he took full advantage against Grand Valley.
While he looked lost, at times, on defense, he recovered nicely and even had a nice block in the first half. He also wasn’t picking up a ton of fouls as he was smart on defense.
Not only did he look much more polished defensively, he actually made some noise on offense, scoring in double figures and he was incredibly efficient.
3. Defense from the guards was impressive
It felt like every time Grand Valley tried to drive, Tyson Walker, Tre Holloman, and AJ Hoggard were staying in front of their man. They didn’t give up any easy looks all game long and their hands were all incredibly active. To make up for the lack of depth in the post, these guys are going to need to have active hands when the ball enters the block, and they did.
Without looking at the box score, I’d guess that these guys accounted for 7-8 steals from the guard spots and they probably didn’t give up any open shots. It was impressive to watch these guys on defense.
Bonus: MSU was rusty but it didn’t matter
Michigan State didn’t play very well offensively and all five starters still scored in double figures. Shooting numbers will improve as the season progresses and it’s a great sign that the defense looks good.
The balanced scoring was a breath of fresh air.