FINAL: Michigan State 70, Alabama 81


Tom Izzo assesses his team ahead of Michigan State’s contest against Kentucky in the 2022 Champion’s Classic. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Luca Melloni, Sports Editor

PORTLAND, Ore.- The Michigan State men’s basketball team opened the Phil Knight Invitational against No. 18 Alabama on Thursday night. The Spartans held on for as long as they could, but Alabama’s freshman star Brandon Miller and his 24 points led the Crimson Tide to an 81-70 win.

“There were some good things, but we kind of stood around and we ran out of weapons,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “That hurt us.”

The former 2021 McDonald’s All-American Miller led his team with 17 points to end the first half and hit a buzzer-beater to extend the lead 42-37 going into the halftime break. 

The Spartans led for a large part of the first half but were unable to defend the perimeter. Alabama would end the game with eight three-pointers.

“We missed some key free throws too,” Izzo said. “We just can’t do those things and win games.”

MSU shot 72% from the free-throw line. Forward Joey Hauser went to the line the most, shooting 7-8.

Senior guard Tyson Walker led the Spartans with 21 points and 4 assists. AJ Hoggard had a quiet 15 points but did not distribute the ball as well as he has been so far this season, only recording one assist against Alabama. 

“We ran out of people to go to when Joey [Hauser] wasn’t in there too,” Izzo said. “I think everybody got frustrated.”

Walker’s 21 points were one of the bright spots for MSU in the loss against Alabama, but Walker struggled to score early in the second half. He did not convert from three-point range on Thursday night.

The other bright spot was freshman Jaxon Kohler, who recorded six points and seven rebounds. Kohler used his size to battle Alabama’s forwards through the paint and regain possession for the Spartans.

Sophomore guard Pierre Brooks earned the start for Izzo’s side after forward Malik Hall (foot) and guard Jaden Akins (ankle) were ruled out. Brooks only recorded five points but had nine rebounds, which tied Miller for the game-high total in rebounds. 

Hall will be sidelined for multiple weeks and Akins is doubtful for the rest of the tournament. 

“One thing I don’t try to do is play doctor, and I thought we’d have him [Akins] back today,” Izzo said. “He doesn’t feel good enough yet, and we’re not taking any chances.”

Despite the notable absences from MSU, the Spartans played tough, physical basketball and used most of its bench. 

Tre Holloman, Carson Cooper and Jason Whitens recorded impactful minutes. Holloman scored one of MSU’s four three-pointers of the night and was a key factor in Thursday’s point guard rotation. 

“We’ll do better,” Izzo said. “That was a good team.”

The Spartans return to the court on Friday, Nov. 25 against the University of Oregon. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 a.m. EST at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.