DETROIT– Tom Wilson, president and CEO for Olympia Entertainment said this about the first college basketball games at Little Caesars Arena, “Saturday is going to be a great day in The District Detroit. We’re excited about the first two college basketball games at Little Caesars Arena, and encourage fans to arrive early and enjoy everything.”
Michigan ran out to an early lead and never looked challenged. They coasted to a 90-58 victory over the University of Detroit Mercy.
After the game, head coach Bacari Alexander said regarding playing in the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase, “Really, really excited that our Detroit Mercy team was lucky enough to play in this inaugural event here at Little Caesars Arena. One of the things that all four coaches recognize is the opportunity to bring college basketball to the city of Detroit.”
Michigan coach John Beilein said, “When I took the tour (Little Caesars Arena), I said that this is the most fabulous building in the world right now for indoor sports. I’m proud to be part of it today; I want to be proud of it in the future.”
It was a full house for the late-game as Oakland gave Michigan State all it could handle. Oakland’s Kendrick Nunn tallied a game-best 32 points. With just 6:11 remaining in the game, the Golden Grizzlies were tied with the second-ranked Spartans at 66-66. The Spartans pulled away late to seal an 86-73 victory.
All five MSU starters scored in double figures. Joshua Langford had 17 points, while Nick Ward added 15 points and 15 rebounds. Miles Bridges finished with 11 points on just 3-of-10 shooting. Jaren Jackson Jr. contributed 10 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks.
Oakland started changing their defenses on MSU. Oakland coach Greg Kampe alternated a 2-3, a 1-3-1 and a 3-2 to keep the Spartans off-balance. Also the Grizzlies’ Kendrick Nunn got hot from outside.
Tom Izzo on the difference makers in the game, “If I look for stars and heroes, Kenny Goins did an unbelievable job and ‘Tum.’ He was just amazing. Nick Ward saved us early; I think Kenny and Tum saved us late. Cassius had an unbelievable second half. We got the win and that’s all that matters. But the deal of the day to me was that this building was filled with green and white. I want to thank everyone for the (great) treatment, and thank our fans down here in Detroit.”
The 2018 Little Caesars Horizon League Men’s & Women’s Basketball Championship will take place March 2-6, at the brand new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Tickets can be purchased now at campus box offices or at www.HorizonLeague.com.
By Raymond Rolak
Photo by Lars Hjelmroth, Rolco Sports & Entertainment Network