EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Tyson Walker scored 21 points, including 16 in the first half, and A.J. Hoggard added 14 on Friday night to lead No. 18 Michigan State to a 74-54 victory over Butler in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
Malik Hall scored 12 for the Spartans (2-2) who moved to 4-0 in the Gavitt Games and have won four of the last five meetings with the Bulldogs. Michigan State avoided starting the season 1-3 for the first time since 1976.
“We took a step in the right direction against a team that’s playing awfully well,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “I thought we did a hell of a job defensively in the first half, especially.”
Unlike their previous three games, Michigan State started out strong, hitting four of its first six field goals, including three 3-pointers. With the game tied at 14, the Spartans took control by holding Butler to three field goals over the final 12:44 of the first half.
“I think we were more aggressive on both ends of the floor and it helped translate to our offense,” said Hoggard who also added six rebounds and four assists. “We shot the ball better tonight. Not to our capability still, but we’re definitely growing and going in the right direction.”
The Spartans continued to dominate in the second half, and led by as many as 24 points. Michigan State made 47% of its field goal attempts, compared to 29% for Butler.
Izzo said the Spartans’ performance strengthens his belief that this might be one of his best defensive teams.
“Want to know what the funny part is?” Izzo said. “I thought it would be one of my better offensive teams. And so, it shows you how dumb I am, at least so far.
“There’s nothing like hanging your head on defense.”
Jahmyl Telfort scored 15 points for Butler (3-1) which came into the game holding opponents to only 30.6% from the field. Pierre Brooks, who transferred from Michigan State following last season, had 13 points.
“I told the guys I don’t know if there was a team in the country tonight with where they were and the way they played,” said Butler coach Thad Matta. “For us, we had opportunities. We struggled to put the ball in the basket and I think they had a lot to do with that.”
Despite playing his two previous seasons at Michigan State, Spartan fans booed Brooks many of the times he touched the ball. The junior guard hit only four of his 11 shots and was called for a technical foul in the first half.
“I thought Pierre played well,” Matta said. “He was very cool, very calm for the game. Even leading up to it, I mean he was excited to get up here and play.”
Hoggard finally had the type of game that was expected of him this season. Much of Michigan State’s success as the year moves along will hinge on the performance of the senior guard. In the first three games, he had only scored 15 total points.
Following Michigan State’s 74-65 loss Tuesday to Duke, the Spartans will likely fall in the AP Top 25 poll. They began the season ranked No. 4.
Butler: The Bulldogs head to Orlando to compete in the ESPN Events Invitational. They’ll open against No. 10 Florida Atlantic on Thursday and could face No. 13 Texas A&M on Friday.
Michigan State: The Spartans host Alcorn State on Sunday before playing a Thanksgiving Day game against No. 3 Arizona in Palm Springs, Calif.