GREENVILLE, SC — Everyone had their moments throughout the season. And as Michigan State basketball tried to bounce back Sunday night against Duke, they each took turns making big plays.
Gabe Brown bombing from the outside. AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker attacking from above. Marcus Bingham Jr. playing perhaps the most passionate and possessed stretch of his career.
In the end, the seventh-seeded Spartans were left with no answers against the talent-rich Blue Devils. Instead of withering, as coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team had much of the season, his players used their physical gifts to push No. 2 seed Duke to an 85-76 victory in the second round of the tournament. NCAA at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
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“Maybe we didn’t follow the game plan completely, and part of that is because sometimes some guys are bigger, stronger and faster,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “And yet the work that Marcus did and starting with those blocked shots, Gabe had an amazing day – he hit some big, big, big shots, and Tyson coming off that ankle, him and AJ did a pretty good job.
“We just didn’t have enough.”
The impulses came in waves.
Bingham, a 7-foot senior, attacked early and often. He drew contact in the paint and was 4-for-4 at the free throw line. He flied up for rebounds and blocks. He came out and hit two triples.
The result was Bingham’s fifth double-double of the season and third in six games. He finished with 16 points and recorded a career-high six offensive rebounds among his 10 boards; he also had three blocks and two steals. And Bingham also helped defend and upset Duke big men Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams in the paint.
“I just try to do the best I can to help my team win…” said Bingham, who is the Spartans’ all-time leader with 168 blocked shots. “I am proud of the boys. We all played hard tonight, I think.”
Brown hit four 3-pointers in the first half, including three in a row during a stretch in which MSU hit deep shots on five straight possessions. The 6-8 senior captain scored 14 of his 18 points before halftime, helping the Spartans fall back after they missed 11 straight shots and fell behind by seven points.
“Once we calmed down,” Izzo said, “we kept fighting.”
It was when Izzo broke up the pairing of Walker and Hoggard at 7:15 of the second half that MSU regained the lead for the first time since midway through the opening period. Hoggard scored four in a row, Walker hit a step-back 3-pointer and Bingham hit a pair of free throws in a 9-0 run that gave the Spartans a 70-65 lead with 5:10 remaining.
Hoggard’s layup over Duke center Williams 7-1 with 2:50 left would be MSU’s last lead, 74-72. When Hoggard (6-4) tried again on the Spartans’ next possession, Williams blocked his shot. Banchero scored at the other end to give the Blue Devils the lead for good as they closed out on a 20-6 run after MSU went up five.
“I thought they came close to the Mike Krzyzewski style and did an amazing job of taking things for us. We just didn’t have enough left,” Izzo said. “That doesn’t change how I feel about my team. We will grow from this, we will improve. I hope people realize this show is here to stay, because today was probably a big game for TV. A hell of a game.
Hoggard and Walker, a sophomore and junior, respectively, combined for 21 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three turnovers. Freshman shooting guard Max Christie scored nine points despite a critical late turnover — one of only seven by the Spartans — and fellow freshman Jaden Akins hit a 3-pointer in the first half. That quartet is expected to return in the fall, and MSU’s backcourt appears headed in the right direction heading into next season, with the arrival of four-star point guard Tre Holloman.
“When it was hard for me in the beginning, they helped me every day, they kept talking to me, they became my best friends,” said Walker, who transferred last offseason from Northeastern and still has two years of eligibility remaining. “I learned a lot, what it’s like to play here every day. Is not easy. And they showed me what it takes. Basically, what it takes to win…
“I have never played such a long season, going so far. But for them, it’s not far enough.”
But Izzo pointed to the need for an offseason with his guards hitting the weight room to improve.
“Part of it is that those bigger, stronger, better athletes taught us a lesson in strength,” Izzo said of the Duke shooting guards. “Not a typical Mike team, if you ask me. I think it’s the most physical of a perimeter team that I’ve ever played against him, and they just handled it and handled it and handled it.”
Who came back?
The three MSU seniors have remaining eligibility, but Bingham, Brown and Joey Hauser each passed through the seniors’ day festivities after a March 6 win over Maryland. It is unclear if any of them will return.
“It’s something the team has to learn from next year,” Bingham said after Sunday’s loss. “Coach has been here before. This motivates them to go into the offseason to work hard and get stronger and just remember this moment so when they come back they’re prepared.”
Hauser, a 6-9 small forward, stuck with Banchero for long stints on defense when the Duke freshman, a possible lottery pick in the NBA draft, finished with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting and seven rebounds.
It was a bit of a downfall offensively for Hauser, who followed his career high by tying 27 points in the first round against Davidson while scoring just 5-on-1-of-5 shooting against the Blue Devils. He also had six rebounds and three assists.
“He’s a great player,” Banchero said of Hauser. “I knew coming in he was going to have to be on my ‘A’ game protecting him. He just wanted to be aggressive.”
How Izzo approaches his aftermath will be intriguing, particularly with the additional years of COVID waivers for Bingham and Hauser and two scholarships left open this season. MSU returns junior captain Malik Hall, who did not score Sunday, and sophomore Mady Sissoko, who did not play. Jaxon Kohler, an offensively skilled 6-10 four-star prospect, joins Holloman in the summer.
On the sideline, freshman Pierre Brooks played just over a minute on Sunday. Christie and Akins can also play there. And Brown cryptically appeared to leave the door ajar for a possible return.
“I’m sad that I can’t play another night, but it’s motivation,” Brown said. “For sure it’s a motivation for next year.”
Izzo on Krzyzewski
Mike Krzyzewski’s career was extended another week with Duke’s win.
The Hall of Fame coach won his 1,200th career game and improved to 13-3 against Izzo, including 4-2 in the NCAA tournament. Krzyzewski announced last summer that he plans to retire after this season.
“I will always support Mike. I think he’s done some things that will go down in basketball history,” said Izzo, who has 666 career wins from him. “But you can remember this game in many ways. My way of remembering him will not be as pleasant, but it will be respectful.”
This article originally appeared on the Detroit Free Press: Michigan State vs. Duke basketball rally highlights weight training