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Michigan State Basketball: 4 takeaways from win over Oakland

This team is finally playing well.

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Michigan State basketball
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball picked up a big win over Oakland on Monday night. What did we learn from the second straight blowout?

Michigan State basketball got back above .500 on Monday night with a 79-62 win at home against Oakland. Here are some rambling thoughts a takeaways.

1. Oakland’s zone worked… until it didn’t

Oakland’s zone scheme was a potentially challenging wrinkle for Michigan State because of its shooting struggles. Early on, it did its job. The Spartans routinely worked late into the shot clock and struggled to score. It showed what remains a problem for the Spartans. Even when they got good looks, they weren’t always able to convert. As the game wore on, the Spartans continued getting quality shots and finally knocked some down.

Overall, the offense against the zone was exactly what you’d like to see. MSU was patient and tried to get the ball into the paint. They didn’t fall in love with threes and continued to crash the offensive glass. Oakland’s version of the zone isn’t the best barometer, but this was an encouraging evening for MSU’s offense. The Spartans dished out 23 assists on 29 made field goals. You can’t ask for much more efficiency than that.

2. Promising night for MSU’s bigs

Nobody has taken more criticism this season than Mady Sissoko and Carson Cooper. If MSU can get this version of their offense moving forward, they’ll be much better off. Combined, Sissoko and Cooper went 6-for-6 from the field for 14 points.

In the first half, Sissoko used his size to establish position before converting a baby hook over his right shoulder. That’s exactly the type of shot that’s missing from MSU’s offense. We know at this point it won’t be there consistently for either guy. But if opponents at least have to respect that aspect of their game, that might be enough. Even though this was a good matchup against an undersized Oakland team, Sissoko and Cooper did their job by hauling down eight rebounds each. Efficient offense and dominant nights on the glass are how MSU can start to fix its problems in the front court.

3. Xavier Booker needs to play

Speaking of the frontcourt, we saw more of Xavier Booker again. Once again, he showed glimpses of great potential. His length can be a weapon on defense. His shooting touch can transform the Spartan offense. This is a crucial time for Booker. The light schedule combined with the space between games will give him a chance to prove his worth to the staff in practice. The two biggest issues with this team are frontcourt play and shooting. Booker provides both. At this point, it’s worth seeing if he can work through his flaws with game experience. His development can give the Spartans a different dimension in February and March than they have right now.

4. Jeremy Fears Jr. is going to be awesome

Not exactly news here. But the more we see of Jeremy Fears Jr, the more there is to like. It’s pretty telling that he’s able to earn the minutes that he has on a team with this type of talent at the guard position. He sees the floor so well. He doesn’t speed up when he gets into the lane. He’s already got a really good floater that can take some guards years to develop. He still has plenty of work to do to earn minutes in crunch time. But so far, MSU should be thrilled with how far along he is as a true freshman. It is going to push AJ Hoggard and Tre Holloman that much harder knowing Fears is right on their heels in the pecking order.

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