7 key takeaways from Michigan State's loss to Kansas State in the heavyweight Sweet 16 matchup

7 key takeaways from Michigan State’s loss to Kansas State in the heavyweight Sweet 16 matchup

For two and a half hours, Michigan State and Kansas State battled it out in “the World’s Most Famous Arena” in a heavyweight match.

Tyson Walker was stripped on MSU’s last possession while trailing by three points in a game that included 14 ties and 16 changes in the lead. Walker was stripped on the last play by Markquis Nowell of Kansas State, who ended with 20 points and an astounding NCAA Tournament record 19 assists for the Wildcats.

As the clock ran out, Nowell scored once more, and Michigan State’s season came to an end in a 98-93 overtime defeat. Here are five things to remember from a fantastic game in New York City:

1.) Walker vs. Nowell

Over the course of the evening at Madison Square Garden, Walker and Nowell, two New York City youths, engaged in physical combat on opposite sides of the floor. Each player only managed five points in the first half due to slower than anticipated scoring starts, although this may be attributed to the guards’ strong defensive performance.

Even though Nowell didn’t score much in the initial 20 minutes, he still expertly directed K-State’s offence with 10 assists. Walker made his first 3-point attempt, making it, but in the first half, he opted for too many mid-range jumpers, making only 2-of-6 shots overall.

The game changed at the 13:52 mark of the second half, with KSU leading 50-46, when Nowell seemed to injure his ankle. With Nowell out of the game, Michigan State promptly retaliated with a 9-2 run, and it became a struggle from that point on.

After Nowell’s injury, Walker turned things around for MSU, making two more triples and scoring eight important second-half points, the biggest of which was a challenging, game-tying layup through contact in the final seconds to force OT.

Walker ended with 16 points, five assists, and three rebounds, but he was unable to make the crucial shot against Big 12 All-Defensive team member Nowell.

2.) Early on, Joey Hauser keeps MSU afloat.

While Kansas State did a respectable job of keeping the Spartans off the basket in transition, they often overlooked Joey Hauser who was behind. By making them pay with a pair of early triples to open his night, the graduating senior made them pay. With 12 points and three rebounds in the first half, Hauser eventually became the MSU player with the most points.

Hauser added two more triples in the second half. Although it was unfortunate for MSU that the senior missed three straight open shots later in the half, the Spartans would not have survived if Hauser hadn’t had such a strong start.

For Michigan State, Hauser’s transformation this season as a graduate was astounding and historic. Without his consistent hot shooting throughout the season, it’s difficult to predict where the Spartans would have stood. The Spartan fans will tip their caps to Hauser if this is his last appearance in a Green and White suit.

3.) In the second half, A.J. Hoggard takes over

All season long, it has been claimed that Michigan State moves with A.J. Hoggard. The junior point guard finished the first half with three assists and seven points, but he then upped his game significantly.

After the break, Hoggard went 4-of-7 from the field for 18 points while dishing out three more assists. At the foul line, the junior was ice cold, making 10-of-11 shots and scoring a career-high 25 points.

Hoggard shown his significance throughout the season, even if it ultimately wasn’t enough to help Michigan State win. He is now set up for a significant senior season in 2023–2024.

4.) High turnover costs

In the first half, Michigan State turned the ball over five times, with the latter ones being costly. With 5:48 remaining in the half, the Spartans narrowly pushed out to a 26-22 lead in a back-and-forth struggle, but Kansas State scored easily as a result of back-to-back turnovers from Hoggard and Malik Hall. With the momentum, the Wildcats went on an 11-4 run and finally led 43-38 at the half.

Izzo’s programme has struggled with turnovers for a long time, and Michigan State’s 13 in tonight’s game could have made the difference. Kansas State took advantage of those MSU errors by scoring 16 points while committing just five turnovers of their own.

5. Keyontae Johnson received no response.

Keyontae Johnson, a senior at K-State, had a significant first half for the Wildcats. Hoggard and Akins from Michigan State guarded Johnson, but he took use of his stature and a useful fadaway jumper to shoot 6-for-8 from the field and score 14 points in the first period.

Johnson had fewer touches in the second half, but he still made the most of his chances. He led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting for the game. Perhaps the finest two-guard pairing remaining in the competition is Nowell and Johnson. The extent to which they can carry Kansas State will be intriguing to see.

6.) MSU’s defence suffered mistakes.

The tight defence that helped Michigan State advance through the first and second rounds was not on display in the first half of tonight’s game.

In the first period, the Spartans let Kansas State to shoot a meagre 62% from the field, including 7 of 12 from 3-point range. Particularly in the halfcourt, the Wildcats tore through Michigan State’s defence as the Spartans lost track of many backcuts and became complacent in the face of outside shooting threats.

In the second half, the Spartans made some progress, but not quite enough. Kansas State scored on eight straight possessions at one point. For the most of this season, Michigan State’s success was largely reliant on its defense, but tonight the Spartans’ mistakes prevented them from moving on to the Elite Eight.

7.) Michigan State gets back to shooting threes.

Last weekend in Columbus, the Spartans shot the ball extremely badly, but today, with their defence faltering, MSU retaliated with a flurry of 3-pointers. Michigan State made a blistering 13 of 25 long-range shots.

Each of Hauser, Akins, and Walker ended the game with four triples, while Hoggard added a fifth. The Spartans had to react by reviving from the outside after Nowell and Johnson both had huge games for K-State.

A significant portion of the Spartans’ 3-point shooting may be gone next season with Hauser likely out the door and Walker facing a choice. Watch out for that narrative in the offseason.

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