On Tuesday, the Michigan State basketball team got their season off to an unofficial start with an exhibition game against Northwood. Students and fans gathered in attendance to watch the 14th ranked Spartans play in their first action of the season.
The opposing school, not to be confused with nearby Northwood University of Midland, Michigan, is an affiliate school from Florida. Last year, they posted a 34-4 record and advanced to the NAIA Division II Championship game, where they fell to Oregon Tech. They are led by none other than legendary coach Rollie Massimino. Massimino, 77, is the former longtime head coach of the Villanova Wildcats, where he once led the number eight seeded Wildcats to the 1985 NCAA Championship, where they upset a Patrick Ewing led Georgetown team in the final.
On Tuesday, Massimino’s team would once again be in an underdog position as they were set to take on a very talented and deep team in Michigan State.
Early on, Northwood played well as Michigan State struggled to find a rhythm in game in which they would eventually turn the ball over 17 times. At the half, the Spartans went in surprisingly up by only six points, 34-28.
However, the second half was a different story as Michigan State stepped on the throttle, opening up a big lead en route to a 85-57 victory. Nevertheless, although the Spartans closed this game out in dominant fashion, keep in mind that this was a Division II NAIA team they were facing. After watching this game, it is clear that Michigan State has some things they will need to touch up on before the real season gets here.
For starters, those 17 turnovers are a problem, six of which were from senior Derrick Nix and four from freshman Denzel Valentine, who’s fancy passes sometimes got the best of him out there. This is something that the team will absolutely need to address. Also, Michigan State went just 7-14 from the charity strike. Something that generally doesn’t happen on a Tom Izzo team.
“We didn’t to do the things we needed to do to be a successful team,” Izzo said. “I think Nix said it best. He used a phrase from Bill parcells: We didn’t do our job.”
Nevertheless, there were still some bright points to take from this game. Sophomore Branden Dawson contributed well on offense with 16 points and 7 rebounds, and is looking quite alright in that knee brace, as he soared through the air in a couple of awe-inspiring dunks.
In addition to Dawson’s impressive return, freshman guard Gary Harris stepped in and fit right into the offense, scoring 14 points on 5-9 shooting.
“He ran the lane very well, didn’t try to do things he couldn’t,” Izzo said of Harris. “He took good shots. That was a very good performance for a freshman in his first game.”
Moving forward, Michigan State will have one more tune-up game, in order to prepare for the regular season. This Friday, they will welcome St. Cloud State (Minnesota) to the Breslin Center. This will serve as their final exhibition game before traveling to Germany to take on Connecticut on November 9 for the regular season opener.
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