Early season losses to high-profile, high-ranked opponents have become annual learning experiences for Michigan State’s basketball team.
For a change, the No. 8 Spartans will try to build off a road victory against one of those teams. They defeated No. 6 Duke 75-69 on Tuesday and now return home to face Detroit Mercy on Friday.
In the past four seasons, Michigan State lost to Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Arizona in non-conference showdowns during the first month of the season.
“We did make a lot of mistakes but it’s a lot easier to learn with a win under our belt,” coach Tom Izzo said. “We’ve played a lot of these games. It might seem to you that I accepted, ‘OK, we got beat but we’re going to get better (later) on.’ I’d rather win some of them early and get better on.”
The Spartans (3-0) showed their depth, as Izzo shuttled in 10 players, nine of whom saw at least 10 minutes of action. Swingman Aaron Henry played the most and filled the stat sheet, contributing 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals in 35 minutes.
Henry saw extensive action at the point and Izzo was impressed how he handled those responsibilities.
“He’s 7 for 21 (shooting) and you can say that wasn’t too good, but he’s starting to show his ability to get into the paint — his ability to handle the ball,” Izzo said. “We rode him like a horse.”
Michigan State also received an unexpected boost from sophomore forward Julius Marble II. He made all five of his field-goal attempts while scoring 12 points in 12 minutes.
Marble only played a combined six minutes in Michigan State’s first two games. He appeared in 27 games as a freshman but never scored more than nine points.
“He’s done it the last two weeks in practice,” Izzo said. “He’s prepared for it. He didn’t complain about (his playing time) but he was concerned about it. Wanted a chance. What do I have to do? We had a great talk the other day … So was it a surprise? No. I’ve seen this the last two weeks.”
The Titans will be playing their season opener, though that wasn’t the original plan. They had three games scheduled at last week’s Bluegrass Classic in Kentucky but had to bow out due to a positive COVID-19 test among a support staff member.
They returned to practice on Monday.
“I’m excited about it. It’s been a long time, a lot of uncertainty,” coach Mike Davis said. “For us to be able to practice (Monday) for the first time, it’s going to be good for our guys. It’s good to be back in the gym.”
Detroit Mercy, which finished 8-23 last season, is led by Davis’ son Antoine. He has averaged 25.2 points per game during his first two seasons, but his father believes the team is deeper this season.
“We’ve got about 10 guys that we can play,” Davis said. “We’ve got to play a lot of guys this year, just because of the way the schedule is set up.”
–Field Level Media