SLOWIK: Three takeaways from Spartan’s first exhibition game


MSU forward Mady Sissoko attempts a hookshot in the Spartans’ 83-60 exhibition win over Grand Valley State on Nov. 4, 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Zac Slowik, News Director

EAST LANSING – The Michigan State men’s basketball team picked up an exhibition game 73-56 win over Grand Valley State at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night.

Here are three takeaways from the Spartan’s exhibition game against the Lakers.

Dominating guard play

It was no surprise when Michigan State ran out senior Tyson Walker and junior AJ Hoggard as the starting guards. Both return as key players for the Spartans.

Walker and Hoggard each had an amazing night on the defensive side of the ball. They aggressively attacked the ball and jumped into passing lanes throughout the game. It felt like every defensive stop ended with one of them having the ball.

“It’s cool man, it’s really good on defense because we can all switch and guard bigger guys, or smaller guys. And then run when we get the ball,” Walker said.

Walker ended the game with six steals, while Hoggard had four. They combined for 10 of the team’s 13 steals in the game.

They each picked up two blocks… that’s right, blocks. Walker standing at 6-foot-1 had a chase-down block in the first half and would pick up another to go with 12 points and four assists, in his 32 minutes played. Hoggard played just under 27 minutes and racked up 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. 

Hoggard was perfect from behind the arc, making both of his attempts. 

“I just have to trust in my work and continue to go out there and play basketball how I know how to play basketball,” Hoggard said.

It’ll be very interesting to see the rotation at the guard position when Jaden Akins, who is phenomenal on each side of the ball, returns from a foot injury.

“Jaden Akins is one of my best two-way players since Gary Harris,” Tom Izzo said.

The Youngins

Two freshmen saw double-digit minutes in the exhibition. Guard Tre Holloman and center Jaxon Kohler look to play a large role for the Spartans this year. 

“My first game at the Breslin Center, I didn’t want to take that for granted. I played as hard as I could, and wanted to make it a night to remember,” Kohler said.

Kohler played 12 minutes in his Michigan State debut, picking up six points, and five rebounds.

Holloman played 16 minutes in his first game in green and white. He picked up three assists and a steal while causing Grand Valley State grief with his perimeter defense and solid ball movement.

Holloman and Hoggard got the crowd involved in the second half, simultaneously slapping the floor before a defensive possession. 

“It felt great. It gives us even more energy when they start cheering, and that helped us get the stop,” Holloman said.

Fans could have also been excited to see a young guard wearing number five and a headband.

The Leadership

Senior Malik Hall returns for his fourth year with Michigan State. He has played in 95 games over the past three years.

With the graduation of Gabe Brown, Hall knows that he has to step up and take a larger role in the leadership of the young team.

“Something Coach Izzo and I have talked about a bunch is being more vocal, and trying to bring more energy,” Hall said.” I am naturally a calm, chill person. I am very low-spoken, so I am trying to be a little bit louder, so I can make sure that I bring my teammates with me and not only lead by example.”

Leading by example is something Hall has never had trouble doing.

Hall is shooting just under 40% from deep in his collegiate career, and he picked up just where he left off knocking down three or his five attempts against the Lakers. 

The Spartans will officially tip off the season Monday, Nov. 7 against Northern Arizona.