EAST LANSING — Thanksgiving in the desert looks like it will be a mostly full table for Michigan State basketball.
Tom Izzo said his 19th-ranked Spartans expect to have Tyson Walker and Malik Hall ready for their game with No. 3 Arizona on Thursday. The two seniors went through practice Monday as Izzo and his team prepares to leave early Tuesday for Palm Desert, California.
Leading scorer Walker sat out Sunday’s 81-49 win over Alcorn State at Breslin Center. Hall played just three minutes in the second half against the Braves after tweaking an ankle, finishing with four points, four assists and three rebounds in 17 minutes.
“I was surprised Tyson made it. He took a few breaks but was in most of the practice,” Izzo said after Monday’s workout. “He said he woke up this morning and felt 99% better. So that was encouraging. And Malik doesn't seem to have any problem with his ankle.”
Walker got scratched from the Spartans’ lineup against Alcorn State after beginning to experience “flu-like” symptoms Saturday. He sat on the MSU bench Sunday in a sweatsuit. The Long Island native leads the Spartans at 23 points while shooting 53.8% in 32.5 minutes through the first four games.
Izzo said he does not expect the illness to affect Walker’s stamina against Arizona.
“I didn't think it was bad today considering not even a day off,” Izzo said. “But you never know. The second day usually matters; thank God we got a third day yet, so we got a little time. And hopefully Ty, he'll respond.
“Right now, he's been our most consistent worker, (best) conditioned guy, defensive player, offensive player and coach. So he's been the most consistent in all areas.”
Hall ranks second to Walker at 10 points while adding 5.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in his five games. The 6-8, 220-pound swingman is shooting 47.6% from the field.
The Spartans got outrebounded by Alcorn State on Sunday, 41-38, and 16-10 on the offensive glass. It was the third time in five games their opponent finished with more total boards than Izzo's team. Fixing that is a primary emphasis for MSU going against an Arizona team that ranks sixth in the nation at 45 rebounds a game and a Wildcats roster that has four 7-footers and five other players between 6-8 and 6-10.
"We gotta make sure we're battling down there for offensive rebounds and rebounding in general," Hall said.
Izzo remains critical of his senior leadership, which includes Hall, Walker and point guard A.J. Hoggard. He’s starting to see progress with that, but still wants more.
“There's no question: we're still not where we need to be,” Izzo said. “Some of that's going to come. But the length of intensity and the attention to detail and what you gotta do time after time after time – not one or two times, not three or four times. That's gonna be the seniors.
“Malik just called out some of them. A.J. has got to get off his butt, and he's got to do that on a regular basis. That's the job of seniors.”
MSU and Arizona already have one common opponent: Duke. The Wildcats beat the Blue Devils in Durham, North Carolina, 78-73, on Nov. 10. The Spartans lost to Duke last Tuesday, 74-65, at the Champions Classic in Chicago. And Izzo has been working to get his players to become more laser-focused for this road trip after dropping that game, the season-opener at home against James Madison and the exhibition loss to No. 8 Tennessee.
“Just how they compete, how hard they play,” Hoggard said after practice about the Wildcats. “They play hard. They take things away and kind of blow actions up. So we definitely gotta prepare for that. Coaches did a good job today of getting us to look at that.”
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Next up: Wildcats
Matchup: No. 19 Michigan State (3-2) vs. No. 3 Arizona (4-0), Acrisure Classic.
Tipoff: 4 p.m. Thursday; Acrisure Arena, Palm Springs, California.
TV/radio: Fox; WJR-AM (760).
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball: Tyson Walker, Malik Hall ready for Arizona