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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, ugly from Buffalo win

MSU picked up a confidence-building win over Buffalo.

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Michigan State basketball
© Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball closed out 2022 with a win over the underrated Buffalo Bulls last Friday night, 89-68.

The college basketball season during the holidays is consistently a difficult time for players and coaches alike. Between finals and and winter break, routines and momentum are easily broken. Michigan State basketball saw this firsthand during the first five plus minutes in each the first and second half of Friday’s game.

Former Buffalo coach Nate Oats, a Michigan native and long time friend of Tom Izzo, instilled the same play style as Izzo in the Bulls’ program. They want to push the ball, and increase the rate of play. Michigan State struggled with this style over the first few possessions, more than likely due to the conditioning and lack thereof during this holiday break.

Once they were able to get into a groove, Michigan State played a fairly flawless game. Led by Malik Hall, who was making his first appearance since injuring his foot back in November, MSU scored from all levels, setting a new season high points with 89.

Here is the great, good, bad, and ugly from Michigan States’ last game of 2022.

Great: Malik Hall

Even without the added element of Malik Hall making his anticipated return Friday night, he was fantastic. Rightfully so, Izzo kept Hall from starting and limited his playing time as he eases him back into game play conditioning, but Hall made the most of his 12 minutes of play. Scoring 11 points on 75 percent shooting, Malik seems to not have missed a beat offensively.

Outside of Jaden Akins, Hall was easily the most efficient from beyond the arc. Having just his leadership and experience back on the court is invaluable but adding his continued offensive success will take this team much further come March.

Good: A.J. Hoggard in the post

It has been no secret this season that, outside a handful of matchups, Michigan State has lacked a scoring presence down low. It was noted that MSU was going to make a point of that against Buffalo, and that A.J. Hoggard himself was going to be active in the post. Hoggard has proven that he is an above average slasher, excelling at using his body while driving to the hoop. What he showed against the Bulls, however, was his footwork and ability to make moves when near the basket, rather than simply flying towards it.

Hoggard finished with 11 points, and while his work down low most likely won’t be noticed outside their film session, by putting in the work towards the basket, A.J. opened up the arc for his teammates, leading to 21 assists, surpassing their 16 assists per game this season by five.

Bad: Conditioning opening each half

It wouldn’t be a Michigan State Basketball game if their opponent didn’t make a run at some point, making it somewhat of a close game. As previously mentioned, Buffalo plays a similar style of game to the Spartans, pushing the tempo and getting points in transition. Michigan State had a hard time keeping up with the Bulls throughout the first five minutes of the first half, and then again for the first ten minutes in the second.

It was apparent that the holiday break had taken somewhat of a toll on the Spartans as the game was tied at just nine apiece with 11:50 remaining in the opening half. MSU began to gain steam and closed the first half up by 11. Unfortunately, they fell victim once again to open the second half. Buffalo rattled off an 8-0 run, pulling to within three just three minutes into the second half. Again, however, Michigan State found their groove and used their momentum to counter their lack of conditioning to pull away.

Ugly: N/A (Bonus Good)

Even with the apparent conditioning issues, Michigan State took care of business against a Buffalo team that is potentially dangerous. There is a reason that Tom Izzo was not thrilled to have to play the Bulls coming back from the holiday break. All that being said, MSU came away with no glaring weak points Friday night.

So, instead of an Ugly, I want to highlight a bonus Good from MSU’s win. Over the last few weeks, Michigan State has struggled to find their way to the free throw line. Over the last three games, Michigan State has only made 22 free throws combined. On Friday night, they had 21 alone.

Getting to the charity stripe is vital in many different ways, and averaging just 7.3 free throws per game, as they had for most of December, will absolutely not get it done.

Writer and contributor for Spartan Shadows. Tyler Dutton, a graduate of Michigan State, is a college and professional basketball specialist with over four years of experience writing on both the Spartans and Pistons.

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