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Michigan State Basketball: Good, great, bad, and ugly from Maryland win, Part 2

Anyone else wish we saw more Coen Carr and Xavier Booker?

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

Michigan State basketball continued its winning play on Saturday against Maryland. Let’s look at the good, great, bad, and ugly.

Michigan State basketball held a slight lead for most of the game, just barely holding the Terrapins at bay for the entire first half. Thanks to a 7-0 from Maryland in the second, however, Michigan State found itself with a one-point deficit with just over seven minutes remaining. The seniors took over at this point, and the Spartans never looked back. They ballooned the lead to 13, eventually coming away with a nine-point win.

Michigan State continues to battle when needed, now having won five of its last six. Let’s look at the good, great, bad, and ugly from the Spartans’ home win on Saturday evening. 

Good: Work in the paint

Michigan State got down and dirty in the paint against Maryland’s frontcourt. Spartan bigs, mostly Carson Cooper, dominated points in the paint and won the rebounding battle on Saturday evening. The Spartans won the points in the paint battle 30-18, which is impressive against Maryland’s Donta Scott and Julian Reese. As previously mentioned, Cooper was great at the Breslin on Saturday. Only finishing with two of those 30 points in the paint, Cooper was in control in so many other ways. He finished the game +15, and on a night when Sissoko and Jaxon Kohler were extremely ineffective, Cooper got the job done in the paint for MSU.

Great: Malik Hall

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Malik Hall is so extremely frustrating because we know the player he can be. He has been it for MSU many times before. When he puts out a flat performance, it drives fans up the wall. With that being said, it seems that his flat performance against Northwestern weeks ago may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. In his last 10 games, Hall is averaging 15  points, over six rebounds, and is shooting 58 percent from the field, and an outstanding 53 percent from deep. He continued this trend on Saturday against Maryland. 

Hall led the way for Michigan State basketball with 19 points. Only Tyson Walker was able to replicate his success on the offensive end, also finishing with 19. Not only was Hall efficient from the floor, shooting 5-for-9, and having seven rebounds. He has been the difference in multiple games this year and will continue to be the Spartans’ X-factor down the stretch.

Bad: Jaden Akins from deep

This category is somewhat of a double-edged sword for MSU. Just days after setting a new personal best in threes hit in a game with a jaw-dropping seven, Jaden Akins attempted to recreate his success, to no avail. He finished the night just 1-for-7 from 3-point range, just 14 percent. That’s a far cry from his 70 percent from deep against Michigan last week. Akins only took 11 shots against Maryland, obviously seven of those being from long range. If the three-ball isn’t falling, I’d like to see Akins be aggressive in other areas of the court. 

I say this is a double-edged sword because we know the talent and accuracy is there for Akins. He is the type of player that can thrive on confidence alone. Not every game is going to have Akins be automatic from three, but that is not likely going to stop the upperclassman from shooting.

As long as he is not taking extremely contested shots, early in the shot clock, and hurting Michigan State, I’m OK with him firing at a rate such as Saturday night. More often than not, I think Akins hits at least half. 

Ugly: Freshman minutes

MSU’s freshmen and the minutes being allotted to them have been a touchy subject this season. It wouldn’t be Tom Izzo and Michigan State if a talented freshman wasn’t upset about playing time, but Saturday evening didn’t help. Coen Carr was the only freshman to see the court on Saturday for MSU, and he logged just six minutes. He was able to hammer home a thunderous alley-oop and grab a quick board, but his time was extremely limited. Izzo mentioned that Coen’s defense needed to be improved for him to gain meaningful minutes, which is fair. 

Xavier Booker, possibly the more outspoken of the freshmen about playing time, never saw the court against Maryland. This is coming after a few games in which we saw Booker begin to receive more minutes and begin to perform. It started to seem that if given in-game chances, Booker might be able to improve with experience. In an extremely physical, and important game for Michigan State basketball, however, Izzo felt he couldn’t trust the freshman.

There has to be trust between the freshmen and coaching staff that with time and development, the minutes will come. But Saturday against Maryland was definitely not ideal for the freshmen. 

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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