When the college basketball season opened Tuesday night, No. 1 Michigan State was at the pinnacle, facing No. 2 Kentucky at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.
On that same night, a young Binghamton squad was also in New York, only it was upstate in Ithaca taking on Cornell for its season opener.
While the environments couldn’t have been more different, the goal was the same for each team — start to get some idea of what works and what doesn’t while beginning to form some sort of direction for the upcoming season. For the Spartans and the Bearcats, the first time out was a humbling experience as Michigan State couldn’t shoot straight in a seven-point loss to the Wildcats while a young Binghamton squad fell by 20 to the Big Red.
Now the teams get set to square off on Sunday night in East Lansing, Mich., with the chance to build off what went down in the opener.
For Michigan State, the goal will be to stay out of foul trouble — all five starters had two fouls in the first half against Kentucky — and improve on a miserable 5-for-26 shooting performance from 3-point range, including preseason All-American Cassius Winston going 1-for-7.
“No. 1 was the number of missed inside-outside shots,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters. “I was amazed at that. We’re always trying to get inside-outside shots because the guys are more squared up on an inside-outside shot. Cassius missed two late, (Kyle Ahrens) missed one wide open shot, but I have no problem with most of our shots selections.”
Turning things around before another high-level showdown next week against No. 12 Seton Hall will be critical, and getting more consistent play from its big three — Winston, junior Xavier Tillman and sophomore Aaron Henry — is the priority for Michigan State (0-1).
Tillman finished with just seven points and nine rebounds while Henry sat most of the first half in foul trouble, which led to some odd lineups and could have contributed to the poor shooting.
“Everyone has those days,” said Ahrens, a fifth-year senior. “It just happened to be one of those days for us. But everyone was back in working this morning getting the shots up, so we’ve got learn from it.”
For Binghamton (0-1), the opening loss was a chance get the feet wet for a lot of players. Four new starters took the floor against Cornell, and the Bearcats were in the game in the first half before Cornell pulled away.
Senior graduate transfer Pierre Sarr scored 16 to lead Binghamton, and the team from the America East Conference has faced Michigan State just once, losing 76-33 in 2015.
“It was nice to get a lot of guys their first action out there,” Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey said. “Our club is going to get better and better. This was a starting point. As much as anything, it was about guys getting some experience and getting their feet wet. It’s going to be a work in progress through this first half of the season, but we were very prepared for that.”
–Field Level Media