Michigan State beats Northern Arizona in season opener

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Fans at the Breslin Center get ready for an early season basketball matchup/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Zac Slowik, News Editor

EAST LANSING – Michigan State took care of business at the Breslin Center against Northern Arizona on Monday Night. The Spartans defeated the Lumberjacks 73-55 in dominant fashion.

Michigan State got out to a quick start in its home opener. Forwards Joey Hauser and Malik Hall hit two early threes and the Spartans jumped out to an 8-2 lead. A lead they would never let go of.

Michigan State did not slow down. The Spartans went on a 13-point run and increased the lead to 16. 

MSU played very aggressively on the defensive side of the ball. At the half, the Spartans had four blocks, six steals and 11 fast-break points.

“I thought we played very, very, very, good defensively for a large part of the first half,” head coach Tom Izzo said.

Northern Arizona was able to slow down Michigan State midway through the first by changing into a zone defense. The Spartan offense was slowed and their lead dwindled to eight. 

Lumberjack guard Jalen Cone led the offensive attack and finished with a game-high 20 points. 

“Michigan State is a very tough team, I think they are underrated. Our guys never stopped playing hard,” said Northern Arizona head coach Shane Burcar.

Cone added ten rebounds to his 20 points, for an opening-night double-double.

“Jalen is a great shooter,” Burcar said. “He is such a coachable young man, but the thing I was most impressed about was his ten defensive rebounds.”

Michigan State would fight to grow their lead and was up 34-20 heading into the half.

Michigan State would continue its dominance throughout the second half, shooting 48% from the field. 

A large part of the high shooting percentage is from the play of sophomore guard Pierre Brooks who knocked down five of his nine shots, finishing the game with 14.

“It felt amazing,” Brooks said. “It’s a great feeling knowing I can help my team get our first big win.” 

Cone wasn’t the only one who picked a double-double. Joey Hauser finished with 18 points and ten rebounds in just over 30 minutes, shooting 50% from behind the arc, knocking down four of his eight attempts.

Freshman Jaxon Kohler had an impressive college debut, finishing the game with six points, nine rebounds and a block.

“Every game I try to go as hard as I can, and do what I can to help the team, whether it is rebounding or scoring, I try to do it to the best of my ability,” Kohler said.

Both teams’ head coaches in Monday’s matchup were Upper Peninsula natives. 

“The U.P. should be proud tonight,” Izzo said. “Two guys coaching Division 1.” 

Michigan State will travel to San Diego Friday for their match-up with Gonzaga on the USS Abraham Lincoln.