Spartans Dominate Season Opener Over FAU

Hungry for some real basketball? Yeah, we were too.

The regular season kicked off on Friday night at the Breslin Center as Michigan State rolled over Florida Atlantic 82-55. MSU raced out to a 16-point lead just 10 minutes into the game and never looked back. FAU could only muster a paltry 25 percent shooting effort in the first half, thanks in large part to an inspired defensive showing by MSU. Coach Izzo made defense a point of emphasis in the two exhibition games.

“I thought it was decent,” Coach Izzo said of the Spartans’ defensive performance. “We did a great job of containing the dribble penetration early and then I thought we played the score.”

Denzel Valentine proved that his dominant preseason performances weren’t flukes. He once again flirted with a triple double, putting up 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Only three Spartans have recorded a triple double.

“Triple-doubles are not easy to come by,” said Izzo. “Three guys, 12 triple doubles. ‘Zel could’ve started out his senior year with one and the urgency early was what hurt him. I gonna have my man Draymond (Green) call him tonight and tell him the arguments we used to have on the bench.”

Valentine didn’t shy away from the criticism from Izzo, and he realized the great opportunity he narrowly missed.

“I had a couple of times at the beginning of the game where I could’ve got a couple rebounds and I passed them up,” said Valentine. “You sometimes don’t get second chance to do things. I think I learned a lesson tonight because I was an assist away and two rebounds away.”

Matt Costello sprinted out of the gates in the absence of his frontcourt mate Gavin Schilling. He was perfect from the charity stripe and 5-9 from the field for 15 points and added seven rebounds.

“He took shots, he’s been shooting the ball better, his jump hook is better,” said Izzo. “That would be a big help (to the offense).”

Deyonta Davis started his MSU career like a man on a mission. He gobbled up six rebounds in the first seven minutes of the game and fired up the crowd with two blocks in a span of three seconds. Davis got on the board for the first time in his career with a tip-in off a Costello missed free throw. The youngblood finished with 13 points and 11 boards. That rebounding total is second best in MSU history for a freshman debut.

“I was really pleased with Deyonta,” said Izzo. “I think he went harder, he played against a physical guy who was pretty good. His quickness to the ball I thought was off the charts. He’d miss a shot and be there for the tip-in.”

Fellow freshman Matt McQuaid converted a tough transition layup for his first career points.

“I kinda snuck it in there, I didn’t think it was gonna go in there for a second,” said McQuaid. “It’s kinda hard to think about it you gotta go on to the next play because it happens so fast.”

The Owls have some notable names on their coaching staff. Former Detroit Pistons main man Michael Curry is at the helm, and former Spartan great Eric Snow is an assistant coach.

Sharing is Caring

The Spartans continued their unselfish play from the exhibition season, assisting on 83 percent of their baskets. McQuaid was called on to run the point while Tum Tum Nairn sat on the bench, and he looked impressive considering he’s only a freshman and it’s not his natural position.

“We sat on the bench and we didn’t think we were moving it enough but we did get some penetration and kicks for some shots,” said Izzo. “When you get 25 assists on 30 baskets it’s hard to complain about that, even for me.”

No Schilling, No Problem

Schilling was held out of Friday night’s contest due to “turf toe.” He suffered the injury in MSU’s second exhibition game against Ferris State on Monday. Coach Izzo said his chances to play in Tuesday night’s Champions Classic matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks are “50-50 at best.”

Quote of the night: Izzo, after being told Derrick Nix was one of three freshmen to record a double double in their first career game: “I’m just trying to figure out what he got the double double in. Donuts and rebounds?”

Stat of the Night: Freshman Deyonta Davis is just the third Spartan freshman to record a double-double in his debut.


Author: Blake Froling

I am currently the Sports Director at ESPN UP in Marquette, Michigan, where I host a daily sports talk show called The SportsPen. I am also the play-by-play voice for Westwood High School football and boys and girls basketball. I graduated from Michigan State University in December 2016 with a degree in journalism.

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