Ahh, basketball is finally back.
Michigan State took to the court for the first time this season, easily dispatching Northern Michigan 94-53 in exhibition action.
The scrappy Wildcats hung around for much of the first half, thanks in large part to eight Spartan turnovers. NMU also held the edge on the offensive glass and took advantage of MSU’s lack of size with certain lineups.
Coach Izzo said this was one of his best shooting teams in 21 years, and the players let that get into their heads early. They forced far too many three pointers, connecting on only 3-13 in the first half. They quickly improved in the second frame, going 8-15 from distance.
Freshman Deyonta Davis made an instant impact on the game on both sides of the court. He was a force on offense in the low post and a block machine on defense. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four blocks.
“He was blocking shots, playing with a little bit of emotion and excitement,” said Coach Izzo. “I don’t know where that came from but I’m gonna bottle it and use it.”
Fellow freshman Matt McQuaid also got significant playing time, mostly on the wing but occasionally running the point. He proved shooting wasn’t the only thing he could do as he facilitated the offense and made some very nice passes.
There was considerable lineup shuffling throughout the game, as is customary for the preseason. Coach Izzo played some small ball with Javon Bess at the power forward and Colby Wollenman at center, and other times he would have Davis and Gavin Schilling in the frontcourt. As for the point, Tum Tum Nairn had the lion share of time, whileDenzel Valentine, McQuaid and Eron Harris also split ball handling duties.
Schilling once again struggled with foul trouble. He picked up three in a span of about four minutes in the first half and earned his fourth early in the second half. Schilling has been plagued by fouls his entire career, and needs to fix the problem if he wants to take the next step in his game.
“Schilling can move his feet, he can do some things, he just sometimes clubs people,” said Izzo. “He would have been a good caveman guy, just kind of carries that club and goes around and clubs people.”
Harris struggled in his first game in a Spartan uniform, only scoring five points on 1-5 shooting.
“Eron hasn’t played in a year and a half,” said Izzo. “You get in front of people for the first time and there were scoring things lighting up in his eyes.”
It came as no surprise that Harris had a bit of rust after a long layoff, but he’s not worried at all.
“I’m happy to be playing,” said Harris. “I’m focusing on my defense in the film. My shot is gonna get going, You know, some days you’re not going to be on, but my shot is gonna get going so I’m not worried about that.”
Bryn Forbes proved without a shadow of a doubt he’s this team’s best shooter. He feasted on any space the opposing defender gave him, going 7-10 from deep for 23 points. The chemistry with his high school teammate Valentine was noticeable right away.
“Our chemistry is great on the court,” said Valentine. “I know where he’s gonna be, I know where he likes the ball. Every time I pass him the ball I say ‘shoot’ I don’t care, just shoot the ball.”
Hero of the night: This was a tough one to give out, but it has to go to Denzel Valentine. He posted a “quiet” triple double, with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He is the team’s leading returning scorer, rebounder and assist man, so this comes as no surprise to Spartan fans.
Next game: Monday November 9 against Ferris State. Tip is at 7 p.m. at the Breslin Center and will be the last exhibition game of the year.