Timme, #2 Gonzaga Survive Scare in San Diego

In the first game on an aircraft carrier since Syracuse defeated San Diego State in 2012, Michigan State, who played in the first Carrier Classic, took on perennial WCC powerhouse Gonzaga. Both teams had won their first games relatively handily, and as tip-off neared, Vegas (and the bettors) were both firmly on the side of the Zags. For about 25 minutes of play, it looked like the Zags weren’t at the second-place ranking they had coming in.

The game tipped off and Gonzaga nailed a quick triple, although they had to redo it after a foul was called on the play. It was quickly answered by Michigan State and that set the tone for most of the first half.

Neither team was able to get out to a decent sized lead. Both teams were getting the ball around equally and the score stayed within three until Michigan State pushed the gap to 24-18 on a Jaden Akins triple. Gonzaga was quick to answer, and the score was close until the final minute of the half.

With the Spartans leading #2 Gonzaga 36-31, the Bulldogs had a chance to close the gap going into halftime with what is typically a final shot. The Zags tried a triple but missed off the back iron. With only three seconds to go, the Spartans set up an incredible transition pass chain, from Sissoko through Hoggard and Walker and finally to freshman Tre Holloman who laid it in at the buzzer to send the unranked Spartans into the half with a 7-point advantage, the largest by either team to that point.

Defense was the name of the game for Michigan State, a nice refresher after the previous couple of years in which the defensive end of the floor was lackluster at best. The Spartans forced 11 Gonzaga turnovers through the first twenty minutes, compared to only 10 buckets scored by the Zags. That defensive integrity was rampant again through the first portion of the second half, and the Spartans pushed their lead into double-digits, forcing Gonzaga coach Mark Few to take a timeout with his team down 45-33. Out of the timeout, Michigan State’s Mady Sissoko, a driving force that had helped the Spartans open up the paint, picked up his third foul and was subsituted for freshman Jaxon Kohler.

With Sissoko on the bench, the Zags picked up steam, and exploited the under-experienced freshman alongside out-muscling Joey Hauser to go on an 11-0 run to bring the game within one. Preseason Player of the Year candidate Drew Timme came alive, picking up three points, two rebounds, and an assist during this run. Tyson Walker was able to stop the bleeding, and with Mady Sissoko now back in the game, the Spartans looked coherent again.

Shots began to fall again, but this time the Zags were keeping pace. Sissoko would pick up his fourth and head to the bench again, but Hauser picked up his fifth with just under five minutes to play and Sissoko would return. Hauser finished the game with five fouls and just two points, shooting 0-5 from the floor.

Sissoko fouled out with under two minutes to go and despite the Spartans having the ball with thirty seconds left and the chance to knock off Gonzaga in buzzer-beater fashion, the play seemingly got confused and Tyson Walker slipped, causing a hurried triple to bounce off the left side of the rim as Gonzaga escaped 64-63.

Drew Timme was the star he was predicted to be, finishing with 22 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, as well as two blocks. Sissoko led the way for the Spartans with 14 and Hoggard had 11, while Walker and Malik Hall had 12 each.

Gonzaga has a way to go to prove to be the number 2 team they’re ranked as right now, but they will have plenty of time to sort it out.

Up next for Mark Few’s team is a trip to Austin to take on the 12th-ranked Longhorns on Wednesday. For the Spartans, it’s a shorter turnaround as they travel to Indianapolis to take on the #4 Kentucky Wildcats in the Champions Classic on Tuesday.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *