Gabe Brown stands out, MSU wins exhibition opener 92-58 against Ferris State
East Lansing – For the first time in more than a year-and-a-half, things felt normal at the Breslin Center.
Sure, Michigan State’s matchup with Ferris State on Wednesday night was merely an exhibition, the first of two before the Spartans tip the regular season off on Nov. 9 against No. 3 Kansas in the Champions Classic.
But still, it was a game in front of fans, something that hadn’t taken place at the Breslin Center since March 8, 2020, the day Michigan State clinched a share of its third straight Big Ten championship.
Whether this season has a similar ending is impossible to tell at this point, especially with so many new faces, but the 92-58 victory over Ferris State at least offered a glimpse into what the Spartans might be this season.
“The Izzone and the fans were great, so it was good to have them back,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought it was awesome."
Gabe Brown, the senior captain, was outstanding in his expanded role, scoring 19 on 7-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Freshman Max Christie also lived up to his five-star billing, scoring 17, including 11 in the second half.
And the Spartans were pushing the temp from the opening tip as Tyson Walker had five assists and A.J. Hoggard had four as the point-guard duo didn’t hold back, splitting playing time almost evenly over 40 minutes.
“Gabe Brown really played within himself and that was good to see,” Izzo said. “Didn’t take any bad shots and defensively, after a slow start, did a very good job. Max Christie was every bit as good as the billing. What really impressed me is two freshmen – (Jaden) Akins and Christie – defensively were really good and Max went to the hole and rebounded well.”
Walt Kelser, the nephew of Michigan State legend Gregory Kelser, led Ferris State with 12 points.
"We have some things to work on,” said Ferris State coach Andy Bronkema, who led the Bulldogs to the 2018 Division II national championship. “It’s an impressive level of physicality at the Big Ten level and the high-major level. The speed and the size are a little bit different.
“I would have liked to see us battle a little more, but I’m not going to let it take away from the experience for our program.”
It took Michigan State a few minutes to knock the rust off, but as the Spartans kept pushing the pace, the easy buckets started coming as they quickly opened a double-digit lead on Ferris State.
Christie was effective early hitting the offensive glass and attacking the basket while Walker was comfortable pushing the pace, as was Hoggard. When Brown scored on a layup in transition followed by a 3-pointer in the corner, Michigan State had pushed the lead to 23-13 as the Spartans were in the middle of an 8-0 run.
It was all part of a 19-2 surge for Michigan State that turned a tight game into a more one-sided one as Walker scored in transition, Christie scored four in a row and Joey Hauser buried a triple from the wing as the Spartans took a 35-15 lead with 5:14 left in the half.
Things slowed from there as Ferris State outscored Michigan State, 14-9, the rest of the half as the Spartans took a 44-29 lead into the locker room.
Michigan State scored the first eight points of the second half with Brown hitting a 3-pointer followed by five straight from Christie. The freshman kept coming the second half, helping push the Michigan State advantage to 72-41 with 10:30 to play in the game after splitting a pair of free throws.
“I just wanted the game come to me,” Christie said. “It was my first game, it was a new experience for all of us, and I just wanted to make sure that I was just making the right plays, making the right reads and eventually the game did come to me. I was able to get more comfortable taking shots that I wanted to take and get to the rim, get to the free-throw line.”
The lead continued to grow late in the second half, eventually reaching 86-45 with just less than four minutes to play as the Spartans emptied the bench, getting all 16 players on the roster in the game with 13 scoring.