Wed, 01 Dec 2021

Michigan State builds momentum entering Loyola matchup

Field Level Media
24 Nov 2021, 03:05 GMT+10

The first game at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Wednesday will be bittersweet for Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.

On one hand, it warms his heart to play against one of his former graduate assistants when the Spartans (3-1) play Loyola-Chicago in the Bahamas.

The man in charge for the undefeated Ramblers is Drew Valentine, who is in his first year as head coach of Loyola.

Valentine is the brother of former Michigan State star Denzel Valentine, and the son of former Spartans great Carlton Valentine.

But with Izzo, business is business, and he wants a fourth consecutive win after a season-opening loss to Kansas on Nov. 9.

"I don't like playing my assistants, but I'm proud to play them," Izzo said, per the Detroit Free Press. "It's almost an honor that guys -- like players, like assistant coaches -- I'm always pulling for guys to live their dream like I got to live mine."

Michigan State has found some rhythm after its season-opening loss to the Jayhawks, winning three games by an average of nearly 30 points.

The Spartans have been led in scoring by Gabe Brown (14.0 points per game), but fellow senior Marcus Bingham Jr. has been the biggest revelation to start the season.

The center is averaging 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.

Loyola looks like it hasn't missed a beat under Valentine, who took over after Porter Moser left for Oklahoma.

The Ramblers, 4-0 to start the season, have been led by Ryan Schwieger (14.8 points per game), Aher Uguak (13.5) and Lucas Williamson (10.8).

Loyola is coming off an 80-63 win on Saturday over Illinois-Chicago, a game in which the Ramblers fell behind by 10 points before storming back.

"I thought it was good for our guys to be challenged," Valentine said. "UIC put us in a position we haven't been in yet and it was good to see how the guys responded to being down. It was great to see the guys step up and make big plays when we needed them."

--Field Level Media

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