Rapid Reaction: Michigan State fights off upset-minded Detroit Mercy behind double-double from Aaron Henry
Well, it’s safe to say Michigan State does not feel quite as good about Friday’s win as it did about the win over Duke. But in the end, a win is a win.
For Tom Izzo’s squad, they definitely had to wrestle with the hangover effect after the big win over Duke. It also did not make things any easier that the Spartans were going up against Detroit Mercy, a program that Izzo was remarkably 1-3 against all-time heading into Friday’s tip.
Adding to the sluggish start was likely the fact that senior guard Joshua Langford did not play after entering the evening as a game-time decision. It will be interesting to see what Izzo says about Langford’s absence, though he had previously indicated that Langford’s foot was all good so far.
Filling in for Langford in the starting lineup was Gabe Brown, and he was especially crucial down the stretch for the Spartans. Brown finished with 16 points in the game on 6-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-6 from deep in the win.
Point guard Rocket Watts continued his impressive scoring run, putting up 23 points, four rebounds, and four assists on 8-for-14 shooting. He took over for a stretch in the second half after Michigan State had fallen behind, starting a run that would give the Spartans the lead for good late in the game.
Key Moment: After falling behind 62-58 with 8:30 left in the game, Michigan State went on an 8-0 run that saw Watts score four points and assist on two buckets by Brown, giving the Spartans a lead they would not relinquish. It remained tight all the way to the 83-76 final, but MSU showed they could close it out.
Key Player: Aaron Henry finished with an impressive double-double, putting up 12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and a block. Henry’s ability to serve as a facilitator at times has been crucial as Watts continues to settle into the point guard role, and it was a strong performance by Henry.
Key Stat: The downside of the performance is that the Spartans had 17 turnovers, a key stat in a bad way that Michigan State will need to clean up moving forward. However, the defensive tenacity of the Spartans was once again on full display with seven blocks and five steals. Marcus Bingham Jr. led the way with four blocks all on his own.
What it means moving forward: A win is a win, and it’s always nice to avoid the letdown after a big win.