College basketball tipped off on Tuesday with games across the country. The marquee matchups were in Indianapolis for the annual Champions Classic.
As the nation watched, Michigan State proved themselves to be competitive and fought back after falling behind in the first half and early part of the second half. Kansas looked the part of a number one team, and Duke stole the entire show later on with a dismantling of Kentucky. Take a look at some takeaways from the Kansas-Michigan State game.
What We Learned:
1. Michigan State’s Athleticism Could Be An Issue.
The Spartans struggled to defend the talented and athletic Jayhawks giving up 92 points on 45 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc. If not for only 60 percent shooting from the line, the score could have been worse.
It didn’t seem to matter on the inside or outside in Michigan State’s ability to slow down Kansas. The frontcourt of Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike combined for 37 points and 17 rebounds. The backcourt for the Jayhawks chipped in a combined 37 points and seven assists on 9-15 shooting from three.
To be fair to Michigan State, I am not sure how many teams in America can defend the inside-out talent of the Jayhawks, but the Spartans will need to compensate for some athletic deficiencies this year if they want to make it to another Final Four.
2. Kenny Goins Provided Solid Senior Leadership
The senior forward only averaged 14 minutes a game last season, but came out last night, played 33 minutes, and put up 17 points and 11 rebounds.
When Michigan State seemed ready to falter and get blown out, Goins was there to provide a big basket or a key rebound. He was more comfortable shooting three-pointers, which is an extension of his game over the past few seasons. Goins only averaged 27 percent from distance on less than one attempt per game last season, but on Tuesday night attempted eight three-pointers and hit three of them. Additional spacing from Goins could provide more driving lanes for Winston and Langford throughout the season.
Izzo loves playing senior forwards who provide toughness, rebounding, and leadership. Goins seems right out of central casting for that role this season. It was an encouraging start for a player that will do a lot for the Spartans this season.
3. Michigan State Showed A Lot Of Fight
You never want to get blown out on the national stage, especially on the first night of the season. Early on it looked like that could be a possibility for the Spartans as the Jayhawks stretched the lead to 17 early in the second half.
However, Josh Langford got hot, Goins continued his strong play, and Matt McQuaid hit some jumpers to get Michigan State back into the game in the second half. It is disappointing that Michigan State was not all that competitive through large portions of this game, but had to be encouraging that the Spartan upperclassmen didn’t hang their heads and fought back. Facing that type of adversity and fighting back will win them games this season.
Unfortunately, the Spartans now have a three-game losing streak in the Champions Classic. The Spartans seemed overmatched tonight, but solid senior leadership and play pulled the Spartans back into the game in the final minutes. Coach Izzo has to be happy with the Michigan State’s fight and will use the next three non-conference games to teach and get ready for the Las Vegas Invitational around Thanksgiving.