From flat to fantastic: No. 8 Michigan State storms past No. 6 Duke
Too many times over the years, a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium has usually meant misery for Michigan State. And too many times in the Champions Classic, Michigan State taking on Duke meant a loss for the Spartans.
So you can imagine how Tom Izzo felt on Tuesday night after No. 8 Michigan State flipped that narrative, overcoming an ugly start to roar back and knock off No. 6 Duke, 75-69. It was Michigan State’s first victory at the legendary arena and it was the Spartans’ first victory over the Blue Devils in the annual event that also includes Kansas and Kentucky.
And while some might point to the fact Izzo was finally able to get that win in Durham, N.C., when there were no fans in the stands, it hardly mattered to the Spartans coach.
“I'm sure the crazies could have made it even crazier,” Izzo said, referencing the well-known student section at Duke. “But I think the Izzone can make it crazy at our place, too, so we're losing out some. I know one thing, I'm not gonna put this as an asterisk, no fans or not. It was a good win for us against a good team and great program and a very, very well-coached team.”
Rocket Watts scored 20 to lead the Spartans (3-0) while Aaron Henry scored 14, had five rebounds and five assists. Julius Marble scored a career-high 12 points as Joey Hauser had a double-double, scoring 11 and pulling down 10 rebounds while Malik Hall had 10 points and 10 rebounds for his own double-double.
Matthew Hurt scored 21 for Duke (1-1). Jalen Johnson scored 11 while Jordan Goldwire added 10 points for the Blue Devils.
Izzo improved his mark against Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski to 3-12, less than two seasons since earning victory No. 2 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The win on Tuesday was Izzo’s first in the regular season over the Blue Devils and improved Michigan State’s mark in the Champions Classic to 4-6 and ending a four-game skid.
“Man, for the things he's done for me and all the times that he's had my back, behind closed doors, in my face, not in my face,” Henry said. “This is the least I can do for him. He’s helped me in more ways than just getting a win for him tonight and I’m very appreciative of that.
“I’m happy for Coach and the career he's had and I'm happy I'm one of the players that got him a win here at Cameron. This is a hard place to win from what I understand, with or without fans, and it was still tough. But I'm happy this happened and I'm happy I could do it with him.”
In the first 10 minutes, it hardly looked like the Spartans were on their way to a victory. The Spartans made just 1 of their first 10 shots, got down 10 points and turned the ball over eight times in the first half.
But after Duke took an 18-9 lead with just less than 10 minutes left in the half, the Spartans began to chip away thanks to a spark from Marble, who scored four points in a row as the Michigan State defense started to pick up the intensity.
Hauser hit his first 3-pointer of the season before Watts hit two straight jumpers. After Henry hit a runner and DJ Steward hit a pair of free throws for the Blue Devils, the Spartans started a 13-2 run that finished with them leading, 37-31, with 39 seconds left in the half.
Marble and Hall each scored four points in the run while Foster Loyer nailed a triple. Duke’s Hurt hit a baseline jumper and Henry’s long three at the buzzer missed to give Michigan State a 37-33 lead at halftime.
“We got punched in the mouth last year (against Duke) and we said we're going to try and do the punching and they did it again to us,” Izzo said. “That, I was very disappointed in.
“But we got a lot of play out of a lot of guys. … And I think we just got back to defending, rebounding and running, and that's kind of what our culture is. I don't know if we forgot about it, or maybe give Duke credit. That’s a very good team we beat.”
The Spartans kept the momentum going to open the second half, pushing their lead to 48-36 after six straight points from Watts, forcing a quick timeout from the Blue Devils with just more than 17 minutes to play in the game. Out of the timeout, Hauser nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to give Michigan State its biggest lead to that point at 51-36.
That lead eventually grew to 54-38 after Hall and Hauser hit three of four free throws, but Goldwire answered with a 3-pointer for the Blue Devils to pull within 54-41.
Duke started chipping away from that point, forcing a few more turnovers and pulling within 60-51 on a pair of layups from Goldwire. But Watts hit another jumper to extend the lead back to 62-51 as Michigan State held a double-digit lead for most of the way from there until the final minute when the Blue Devils hit a triple and MSU missed a couple of free throws.
Duke got within five points with just 20 seconds to play, but Hall and Watts each hit a pair of free throws to put the game away.
“It wasn't the prettiest, but it was a grind-it-out Michigan State win,” Izzo said. “And as our offense gets better, I think we're gonna get a lot better.”