'We wore them down': Michigan State overwhelms Notre Dame with blocks, 26-0 run
East Lansing — Relentless defense, sharing the ball and a deep, balanced offensive attack.
The only thing missing Saturday was a raucous Breslin Center crowd enjoying the ride.
Other than that, No. 13 Michigan State looked like some of Tom Izzo’s signature teams Saturday night, overwhelming Notre Dame with haymakers en route to an 80-70 victory.
A 26-0 run that stretched over both halves showed off the Spartans’ energy, unselfishness and depth heading into Tuesday’s test at No. 9 Duke in the Champions Classic.
“I thought we played awfully well,” Izzo said, highlighting MSU’s passing after 26 of 30 field goals were assisted. “I think we wore them down a little bit.”
Izzo also lamented that the Breslin faithful couldn't be in the house after walking home from an unexpected 29-20 football win against Northwestern.
"Boy, if they were coming from football to basketball, this place would be rocking," Izzo said. "You all should be happy with all those Spartan wins. Love it."
The MSU basketball cultural traits don’t take long to learn. After scoring 10 points, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds and dishing out four assists, Marquette transfer Joey Hauser looked more comfortable in his second game. After that, he served as a spokesman for his new program.
“Our motto here is ‘Defend, rebound and run,’ ” Hauser said after smashing his previous high of 10 rebounds. “I think today I was kind of free-flowing, letting the game come to me, and that’s what the change was from Game 1 to Game 2.”
Aaron Henry led the balanced Spartans with 14 points, and set the tone with four blocked shots, matching his roommate Marcus Bingham Jr. to lead the defense.
Bingham made his presence inside felt throughout with a putback dunk through contact and a couple turnaround post moves, in addition to the blocks.
“I’m happy to see his progression,” Henry said of Bingham. “To know where he’s come from, how he’s developed now, it’s exciting to see.”
Bingham blocked a mid-range jump shot, which set up the second of consecutive alley-oops from Rocket Watts to Gabe Brown late in the first half, bringing back more classic Izzo memories.
Michigan State had 12 blocked shots, including 10 in the first half. It was on pace smash the program’s record of 16 against Houston Baptist in 2017, but the Spartans went on cruise control after that.
Brown had five of MSU’s nine steals. Watts had 13 points, despite starting the season with a tender knee and a slight ankle turn Saturday.
Tuesday’s Champions Classic game will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium with no fans, taking away the Blue Devils' legendary home-court advantage.
That was the case on Saturday night for Michigan State against Notre Dame, though the Spartans made out just fine without the Izzone’s energy.
The Spartans closed the first half on a 17-0 run, holding Notre Dame scoreless for the final 7:12. The Irish missed their last 12 shots before the break.
The run stretched with a couple 3-pointers from Joshua Langford and Henry to open the second half. That was followed by a Foster Loyer and-1 after the point guard didn't attempt a two-point shot in leading MSU with 20 points on Wednesday.
Michigan State led by 28 points with 12:57 to play though coach Mike Brey’s Irish excelled in garbage time.
About the only thing Michigan State struggled with early was 3-point shooting, going 1 of 9 (11%) from deep before halftime. The Spartans shot 6 of 13 (46%) on 3-pointers after the half.
It was the season opener for Notre Dame, which was picked by the media to finish 12th in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference. The gridiron rivals were playing for just the third time since 1979.
Prentiss Hubb scored 23 points to lead the Irish, which plays host to Western Michigan on Wednesday.
Matt Schoch is a writer for PlayMichigan.com and freelances for The Detroit News.