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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Michigan State opens NCAA Tournament with commanding win over Mississippi State

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It took less than a minute. 

57 seconds into the first round of the NCAA Tournament, No. 9 Michigan State went up on a three-pointer from junior guard Jaden Akins and never looked back, defeating No. 8 seeded Mississippi State 69-51 to advance to the second round for the third consecutive year. 

“I think this was one of the better first game performances of a team that deservedly so was seeded a little lower,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. 

Graduate guard Tyson Walker and Akins set the tone on both ends of the floor, recording 19 and 15 points, respectively. 

“[Akins] defended it, he rebounded it, he shot it, and he even passed it some,” said Izzo. “It was no question Jaden Akins’ best game here at Michigan State. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

MSU junior guard Jaden Akins (3) throws down a dunk over Mississippi State freshman guard Josh Hubbard on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2024 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC.
(Photo by Jack Moreland/WDBM Sports/Michigan State University)

The Spartans throttled Mississippi State in several areas that made a difference. 

Against one of the best rebounding teams in the country, Michigan State won the battle on the boards 35-29. 

“The guards had to come back and help,” said Walker of Michigan State’s rebounding effort. “That was the big part. The bigs, we knew they were going to be down there boxing out.”

MSU senior guard A.J. Hoggard (11) and senior center Mady Sissoko (22) celebrate after a Spartan basket against Mississippi State on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2024 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC.
(Photo by Jack Moreland/WDBM Sports/Michigan State University)

Three players had five or more rebounds, including senior Mady Sissoko, who had nine in 17 minutes, and Akins, who had seven. 

“The game was won with the rebounding,” said Izzo. “I really believe that’s where the game was won, along with some of the shots [Walker and Akins] made.” 

Freshman Josh Hubbard emerged this season as one of the most dynamic guards in the SEC, and led Mississippi State in scoring this season, averaging just over 17 points per game. 

Hubbard struggled to find a rhythm offensively against Michigan State, recording 15 points on 18 field goal attempts.

MSU graudate guard Tyson Walker (middle) lays the ball up over three Mississippi State defenders on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2024 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC.
(Photo by Jack Moreland/WDBM Sports/Michigan State University)

“First-half [Hubbard] had it going, and the second half we kinda just locked in more,” said Walker. “We contested every shot he took, made sure they were further out.” 

Outside of Hubbard, the Bulldogs failed to find any consistent offense. The freshman was the only player to score in double figures for Mississippi State. 

“We knew the type of scorer that [Hubbard] was,” said Akins. “Had to make it tough on him. Scorers are gonna score the ball and find a way to get some points, but if you hold them below their average or below their field-goal percentages then I feel like that’s a win for our team.”

MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo celebrates with Spartan fans in attendance against Mississippi State on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2024 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC.
(Photo by Jack Moreland/WDBM Sports/Michigan State University)

Senior guard A.J. Hoggard also had an impressive game for Michigan State, recording eight points and eight assists, to go along with two rebounds. 

With the win, Michigan State advances and will play the winner between No. 1 seed North Carolina, and No. 16 Wagner. 

“I think I’ve got some seniors who don’t wanna go home yet, and they played like it,” said Izzo.

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About the Contributors
A.J. Evans
A.J. Evans, Sports Editor
A.J. Evans (He/Him/His) is the Sports Editor at Impact 89FM. He is from Southfield, Michigan and is majoring in journalism. He has covered football, women's and men's basketball for the Impact. “Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it, and live the phrase sky’s the limit….see you chumps on top.” - Biggie  
Jack Moreland
Jack Moreland, Sports Photo Editor
Jack (he/him) is a Journalism major focusing in sports reporting and media photography. Growing up in nearby Okemos, Michigan, he has been a lifelong Spartan and is proud to sport the green and white. Jack is a big Baby Keem fan and is known to post on your block with your wishlist on you.

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