Michigan State looked much more like the team it was projected to be against Butler on Friday.
The 18th-ranked Spartans will try to build off that performance when it hosts Alcorn State on Sunday in East Lansing, Mich.
The Spartans collected a 74-54 victory over the Bulldogs as Michigan State’s defense held Butler to 28.8 percent shooting.
“We took a step in the right direction against a team that’s been playing awfully well,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “I think we did a (heck) of a job defensively, the first half especially. To out-rebound them by 10, get 59 shots up, cause turnovers, those are all things that are going to help us win games.”
As usual, Tyson Walker led the Spartans (2-2) in scoring with 21 points. Backcourt partner A.J. Hoggard had his best outing of the season with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Hoggard averaged five points on 19.2 percent shooting during their first three games, which included a shocking home loss to James Madison on Nov. 9. Michigan State was defeated by No. 9 Duke 74-65 on Tuesday.
“Coach is going to continue to bring the best out of me,” Hoggard said. “He’s never going to let me get complacent. I’ve just got to continue to show up and be there for my guys.”
Izzo believes Hoggard has plenty more to give.
“I think we can get a lot more out of him. I really do,” Izzo said. “I mean he still missed some great shots, but he got downhill more, he got in the lane more, he got to the free throw line more, he finally rebounded the ball, which he can do.”
Sophomore center Carson Cooper was inserted into the Spartans’ lineup on Friday. Cooper only attempted two shots but he grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots.
“Everything was coming together for me, and I will keep trying to build off of that,” Cooper said. “This is what I worked for all of this summer. I will keep trying to earn my spot.”
Alcorn State (1-3) has only played one home game and won’t play another until Jan. 20. The Braves won their lone home contest against Xavier (La.) while falling to Arkansas, Arkansas State and UAB.
Alcorn State won the SWAC regular-season title the last two seasons but fell short in the conference tournament.
The Braves gave up 93 points to Arkansas and 100 to Arkansas State, which raised alarm bells for coach Landon Bussie.
“Our focus is on defense. We’re just not guarding,” he said in a radio interview. “Just got to find guys who want to play hard, just have to find guys who want to compete and have some pride. We’ll keep on searching until we find that right group. We are a very good team and we just aren’t making championship plays right now. Got a lot of work to do.”
They showed progress against UAB, which needed a 3-pointer in the final minute to pull out an 80-77 victory.
Alcorn State was led by Dekedran Thorn, who had 15 points, and Jeremiah Kendall, who had 14 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Kendall, a senior forward, will be a major focus of the Spartans’ defensive gameplan. He’s averaging 21 points and 10.7 rebounds.
–Field Level Media
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