Spartans fans show their love for Hauser during win over Wolverines
East Lansing – It was hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened on Saturday afternoon because it happened more than once.
The Breslin Center crowd was at a fever pitch most of the game, still cooking after the bulk of the students were lining up outside just as the sun was rising. But it was in the second half, in particular, of No. 10 Michigan State’s 83-67 victory over Michigan that the home crowd broke into a chant that hasn’t been hard a whole lot.
In fact, it was one that had a usually emotional Tom Izzo fighting back a few tears, even well before the final buzzer sounded.
“Joey-Joey-Joey,” the crowd roared in unison on a couple of occasions in the second half, the loudest after Hauser hit a 3-pointer then scored a layup in transition off a feed from A.J. Hoggard, a stretch that pushed back a potential Michigan comeback and left Michigan State ahead, 60-44, with 9:06 to play.
A timeout was called and Hauser was showered with cheers heading to the sidelines.
“It’s awesome that they keep supporting me,” Hauser said. “But my job is just to stay focused on the game during that time. So, to be honest, I didn't really notice it a ton. I know my teammates were really jacked up for me. … It was just an awesome game, an awesome moment for my team and myself.”
Hauser scored 14 points and grabbed a couple of rebounds, solid numbers. But Hauser confidently stepping into shots in crunch time, sacrificing his body while diving for loose balls and doing everything he could to guard Hunter Dickinson, Michigan’s 7-foot-1 monster in the middle, was what really had the crowd on its feet and Izzo choked up.
“To be honest, it brought tears to my eyes to hear the crowd chanting Joey Hauser,” Izzo said. “He gave me everything he had. He rebounded the ball, he hipped (Dickinson) and gave me everything he could. But hitting those big 3s made a difference.”
The first quelled one Michigan surge and the second came after Gabe Brown had just done the same and were part of an 8-0 run that pushed Michigan State’s lead from 64-53 to 72-53 in less than a minute, essentially putting the game out of reach.
It was one of Hauser’s best Big Ten games as a Spartan, and the frustration over the past two seasons has come because the consistency hasn’t been there. But over the last few weeks, Hauser has stopped focusing on scoring and has started to become the player the Spartans expected.
He was that and more on Saturday as he even did his best guarding Dickinson, who held a solid 4 inches and multiple pound advantage on Hauser.
“It’s always good when you see Joey bring energy and bring the effort on the defensive side,” Marcus Bingham said, “and taking the initiative guarding bigger dudes. Joey played a hell of a game tonight and I’m really happy for him.”
The key for Hauser at this point is keeping things rolling throughout the rest of the season.
“It wasn’t his shooting that that really saved the day, it was a defensive dive on the floor, it was his energy level trying to cut out their two bigs,” Izzo said. “They’re really good and it's not an easy job for anybody.
“I'm just happy for him because he has been through a lot and he’s an unbelievable kid. The guys love him and you really pull for guys like that.”
Bingham stymies Dickinson
Bingham made life difficult for Dickinson when he was in, even though foul trouble limited the Michigan State senior to just less than 17 minutes of action. It was enough time to get four blocks for a career total of 144 and move up to third on the all-time list behind Xavier Tillman (153) and Matt Costello (146).
Dickinson was bothered by Bingham’s length and did most of his damage when Julius Marble or Joey Hauser were in the game, as well as a few minutes on Mady Sissoko.
Dickinson finished with 25 points but took 19 shots and added nine points from the free-throw line.
“I was pleased,” Izzo said. “Marcus did pretty good job until he got in foul trouble. … We didn’t double down on Dickinson, but that was the game plan and (it helps) when they don’t shoot as well from 3.”