Jaxon Kohler sets four career highs in 70-57 win over No. 23 Rutgers


Jack Moreland

The Michigan State Spartans line up for the national anthem ahead of their game against Nebraska on January 3, 2022. Photo Credit: Jack Moreland/WDBM

Luca Melloni, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State men’s basketball team snapped a two-game losing streak after defeating No. 23 Rutgers on Thursday night. MSU freshman Jaxon Kohler set four career highs and helped the Spartans earn a 70-57 win over the Scarlet Knights. 

Kohler recorded career-high numbers in points (12), rebounds (11), minutes (23) and blocks (3).

“He [Kohler] rebounded the ball well,” head coach Tom Izzo said after the game. “He is good on the block and good on the ball. I think we did a better job of getting him the ball.”

A.J. Hoggard once again took control of the floor as he ended the night with a game-high 16 points and seven assists. He’s recorded 50 points in the past five games.

After another sluggish start to a game, Michigan State rallied back to earn a first-half lead over Rutgers. The Scarlett Knights led by as much as eight points early in the game. Despite struggling early in the game, Michigan State’s sharpshooters put on one of their better performances of the season. 

The Spartans shot 54.5% (12-22) from three-point range and shot 47% (26-55) overall.

“We said we would get in the paint and pick out some open looks and we did,” Izzo said. “I was really pleased with getting 19 assists against a team that is so good defensively.”

Similar to the game against No. 3 Purdue on Jan. 16, the Spartans missed a heavy volume of shots until they finally started to go inside the basket in the latter part of the first half. 

The eye-opening fact of the first half is that Rutgers out-rebounded Michigan State 21-11. Izzo was not thrilled by the rebound comparison. 

“When they get 18 offensive boards, you usually don’t win games,” Izzo said. “We got 19 assists against a great offensive team and that’s hard to do.”

The Scarlet Knights would end the night with 42 rebounds, 18 of them being offensive boards. In comparison, the Spartans rebounded the ball six times on offense throughout the game.

Rutgers center Clifford Omoyuri played a crucial part in that.

He finished the night with 12 points and 12 rebounds, his second straight double-double. Against Ohio State on Jan. 15, Omoyuri recorded 14 points and 11 rebounds.

“We got thrown around tonight if you ask me,” Izzo said. “I love the way they [Rutgers] play.”

The positive note was that the Spartans’ shot selection improved against the Scarlet Knights compared to recent games. 

“We said it was going to be a rock fight. It was a rock fight against Purdue, meaning that it was very physical,” Izzo said. “They are tough games, grinding games. We’re getting a little better.”

Sophomore Jaden Akins’ dunk midway through the second half had the Izzone on its feet. Since Malik Hall’s injury, Akins has taken a larger role in the starting lineup. He credits his increased game time to his recent changes in the way he prepares for games.

“With my mental approach to things, I feel like I changed that a little bit,” Akins said. “I know I’m approaching the game the right way.”

Michigan State will move on to a road game against Indiana this weekend. The matchup against the Hoosiers on Sunday, Jan. 22  is a noon tip-off from Bloomington.