DETROIT —Tom Izzo spent 10 days trying to figure out just what kind of defense his friend Greg Kampe was running at Oakland. He went as far to say the hybrid zone “is out of Star Wars.”
Maybe it was his trip home to the Upper Peninsula last week, but Michigan State basketball’s coach found the plans to Kampe’s Death Star and found its weaknesses: Bomb away from outside, then run backdoor lob after backdoor lob.
Max Christie shooting 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
Tyson Walker to Marcus Bingham Jr. Over and over.
A.J. Hoggard to Julius Marble. Joey Hauser to Gabe Brown.
The 10th-ranked Spartans destroyed the Golden Grizzlies’ defense, shooting 55.2% with high-percentage alley-oops and went 11-for-28 from 3-point range en route to a 90-78 victory Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Bingham and Christie led MSU with 17 points each — Christie, a true freshman, made four 3-pointers, while Bingham added 12 rebounds and four blocks. Brown added 14 points, Malik Hall scored 13 and Walker had 10 points and 10 assists before fouling out in the final two minutes.
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MSU (9-2) hosts High Point at 3 p.m. on Dec. 29, its final game of 2021 before resuming Big Ten play Jan. 2 at Northwestern.
Jalen Moore scored 25 points with 11 assists to lead Oakland (7-3), while Jamal Cain added 20 points, Micah Parrish scored 19 and Trey Townsend had 14. The Golden Grizzlies hit 10 of 27 3-pointers and shot 43.9% but were outscored in the paint 48-26 and allowed MSU to get 27 second-chance points.
Though the Spartans never lost their lead in the first half, after scoring the first eight points, the first 20 minutes were a battle of back-and-forth runs.
Max Christie hit a pair of 3-pointers and Brown had a dunk in transition off a Bingham steal to put MSU ahead in the first two minutes. But Oakland counterpunched with 3-pointer after 3-pointer to stem the Spartans’ momentum, pulling within a point at 19-18 on a putback by Cain with 11:42 left before the half.
MSU countered with a 15-4 spurt, with Hall scoring seven (including five straight), to put the Spartans back ahead 34-22 with 7:29 left in the period. And they did so without a turnover to that point.
A.J. Hoggard committed the first giveaway with an offensive foul as he pushed off on a baseline drive, then Hall took a shot above his right eye with 4:06 left in the half and went to the locker room. He did not return until after halftime.
Oakland continued to bomb away from outside, with Moore hitting a deep one over a flat-footed Hoggard and Cain hitting two more — the Grizzlies were 6-for-11 from beyond the arc in the half. Trey Townsend’s layup with 3:35 left capped a 13-2 spurt to again pull Oakland back within a point.
But the Spartans continued to attack the Grizzlies’ zone with back-door alley-oop passes from Walker to Bingham. Brown soared in for a dunk off a Christie miss, which elicited a technical foul from Kampe and gave MSU’s senior captain two more free throws. The Spartans finished the half the way they started, with another 8-0 run, to go into halftime leading, 44-35.
Bingham and Hall each scored 11 in the first half, while Brown had nine as MSU shot 52.9%. Walker had six assists and no points, but he drained a 3-pointer to open the second half to extend the run to 11 straight points; he then hit another to boost the cushion to 13 quickly.
Oakland cut it back to seven on three Moore free throws, but the Spartans went back to what worked early — Bingham on an alley-oop from Hoggard, Christie draining a 3-pointer from the corner, then Hoggard attacking north and south and finishing in traffic.
Izzo matched Kampe’s technical deep into the second half, going ballistic after an apparent missed call on what looked like a push-off by Oakland’s Cain that resulted in a foul on Hauser. He amped up the pro-MSU Little Caesars Arena crowd into a deafening roar with fist pumps and screams as Cain missed one of the ensuing free throws.
By that point, the deflector shield had vanished from Kampe’s zone. His switch to a full-court press came too late, even though the last-ditch defensive change helped Oakland cut the lead back to single digits. Izzo’s strategy went off just as planned.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball alley-oops its way over Oakland, 90-78