When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Radio: WJR-AM (760).
REVELING IN A BIG WIN:Victory over Kentucky shows early growth in key players — and Izzo
Game notes: The Spartans’ early games against tough competition — No. 2 Gonzaga last week and No. 4 Kentucky on Tuesday — have gone a long way toward tamping down worries that Tom Izzo’s squad would be too short-handed to compete with top teams.
Much of that is thanks to the surprising starts from forward Joey Hauser and center Mady Sissoko. Hauser had a breakout game against the Wildcats in Indianapolis, putting up 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including four 3-pointers, while adding eight rebounds. Then again, we’ve seen Hauser dominate nonconference foes before — he averaged 13.3 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 assists over six games to open the 2020-21 season, then mustered just 8.9 points, 4.7 boards and 1.2 assists in 20 games of Big Ten play that season.
Sissoko, meanwhile, averaged 15 points and 8.5 rebounds in the five-day span against the Bulldogs and Wildcats. Not only did those games set career highs in scoring for the junior from Mali by way of Utah, but they were his first games with double-digit scoring in three seasons as a Spartan.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, are coming off a Final Four appearance last season in which they took down Big Ten powers Ohio State (round of 32) and Michigan (Sweet 16). ’Nova lost a lot of experience in the offseason, with seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels— two of the Wildcats’ top three scorers — all departing and head coach Jay Wright suddenly retiring. Guard Justin Moore, who was No. 2 on the roster at 14.8 points a game, is back, but unlikely to return before the start of Big East play after tearing his Achilles in ’Nova’s Elite Eight win over Houston. That has left a lot of playing time for returners Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels, who are averaging 18.3 points and 16.7 points per game through the Wildcats’ first three contests.
After hosting Villanova, the Spartans head west for a trio of games in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon, including matchups with Alabama (Thursday) and either UConn or Oregon (Friday). The Wildcats, meanwhile … also head to Portland, where they’ll open up against Iowa State on Thursday before facing either North Carolina or Portland on Friday. If both the Spartans and Wildcats have the same results — win/win, win/lose, lose/win or lose/lose — on Thursday and Friday, they’d meet again on Sunday in one of the three venues slated for the eight-team tournament.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball beats Villanova, 73-71: Game thread replay