As the year comes to a close, there’s less daylight and what seems like less hours in a day. Of course, I would love to have the time to write three well-researched, full-hearted Michigan State articles but life just didn’t see it that way this week.
So, I’ll condense it into one action-packed blog with all the hits. There was plenty to talk about this week whether it was the Women’s soccer team reaching the program’s first Sweet 16 with a victory over Harvard on Thursday, or more head football coaching news, but here’s my three favorite things that happened in the world of Spartan athletics.
3. The men’s basketball team finally had a complete game
An undefeated Butler team with a former player in Pierre Brooks and a player with whose name (Posh Alexander) just sounds like someone who would have a generational performance against the Spartans had us all holding our breaths going into this one.
While there were some missteps in the middle of the first half lineup-wise, the Spartans cruised to a 20-point victory Friday night. It was Carson Cooper’s first start and boy did he relish the opportunity, scooping up seven defensive rebounds and four offensive boards. He was not brought in to score buckets for now, but added three points.
Mady Sissoko’s new role off the bench provides that perfect spark and matches up so much better against other reserves. Tyson Walker continued his Big Ten Player of the Year campaign with 21 points (and made 80 percent of his free throws), Tre Holloman debuted the sleeveless look, and Malik Hall unlocked his midrange jump shot.
But the most crucial storyline to come out of this game is the awakening of AJ Hoggard. It’s no surprise to anyone that Hoggard has had a rough start to the season, a common theme with the senior. Even early on, the shots just weren’t falling and you could see that Hoggard was getting frustrated, and when he gets frustrated, he either sulks or turns that chip on his shoulder into basketball greatness. Like the great phoenix, Hoggard rose from the ashes to go 5-for-11 from the field, make a 3-point bucket, and flashed that edginess we’ve all been dying to see, even in the handshake line.
There’s a famous scene in the movie Miracle where Herb Brooks has every player take a questionnaire as a psychological experiment or some weird thing like that but goalie Jim Craig didn’t take it just because he didn’t understand what it had to do with stopping the puck.” But in the face of adversity, Craig asks Herb if it’s all about taking the test and Herb says “No, I wanna see the kid in net who wouldn’t take the test,” and I can clearly see Tom Izzo and Hoggard having this same conversation, where Izzo says “I wanna see the kid on the court that wouldn’t shake Pierre Brooks’ hand.”
I know Izzo has said that this team lacks leadership, but I don’t think it’s up to Hoggard to take that role. AJ needs to be AJ if he’s going to take this team deep into March.