COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tyson Walker did not lead Michigan State in points in Friday’s 72-62 victory over USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament East at Nationwide Arena.
He didn’t lead the Spartans in rebounds or assists.
But what the 6-foot-1 guard from Westbury, Long Island did was far more important. He silenced USC’s top scorer, Boogie Ellis, and held the Trojan guard to his 6 points, 12 less than his season average.
Ellis was held to 3 on 12 shots and 0 on 3 shots from 3-point range.
That was the game difference.
Walker was key for the seventh-seeded Spartans (20-12), who advanced to a second-round matchup against second-seeded Marquette on Sunday.
When Walker transferred to Michigan from the Northeast before last season, he envisioned making a difference at the highest level of college basketball and preparing for a professional career.
“That’s why I came here, to be in a position to play and win a game like this,” Walker told the Post after the game. Coach [Tom Izzo] Great, the team is great. “
Walker, who had 12 points, four assists and three rebounds against USC, was the only player on the Spartans roster to come from New York and said he brought a “completely different type of attitude” to the team.
He speaks in a calm, almost shy tone and never comes across as an alpha dog player he’s on court.
“I’m not as low-key as you think,” said Walker. “If you ask [my teammates], they will say that I probably speak the most. “
Walker heard from Izzo just 2:36 into the first half. He did one thing that the veteran coach felt guilty about in this game.
“I bet I haven’t said three bad words to Tyson in the past year,” Izzo said. “He never does anything wrong. He’s a good student, he attends classes, he does his job, he comes and goes to train, he plays offense, he plays defense. He’s everybody’s All-American.”
“But one thing we said [before the game] If they don’t get fouled on reach, I don’t care if they get the bucket. And he did. He was more angry with himself than with me. I said, “Hey, you’re not going to reach out or you’re going to sit here.”
Walker did not commit another foul for the remainder of the game.
“He’s just a hard worker,” Michigan State’s Joey Hauser told the Post. “He’s not a big guy, but he packs a punch. He does everything for us. player, making shots and getting to the rim.”
“And you saw what he did defensively,” Hauser continued. I took the player out of the game, that’s what he does.”
Jaden Akins of the Michigan State Guard told the Post that Walker “means everything to this team.”
“Ellis was at the top of our reconnaissance reports,” Eakins said. “He was the driving force that pushed their team forward. We knew that if we made his job tough, he had a chance to win, and Tyson did it well.”
“Tyson is the definition of a Spartan. He’s tough, he plays big, he’s a clutch player, he’s a winner. From the moment he stepped onto campus, I knew he was talented.”
Izzo said he is grateful every day for Walker’s decision to enter the transfer portal and leave Northeastern in 2021.
Two years later, Walker leads Michigan State in scoring with 14.6 points per game.
Walker knows his decision to transfer will help him at a professional level wherever he lands. The demands on him to play well are high, so he has to perform. “
“I have grown a lot since I came here,” he continued. “My game is better, my business is better. I always think I can do things that a lot of people don’t even know I can do.”
On Friday he did everything.
Market 78, Vermont 61
In Columbus, Ohio, Cam Jones scored 18 of 19 points in the second half as No. 2 seed Marquette defeated No. 15 seed Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament East Region.
Oso Ighodaro scored 14 points, David Joplin added 12, and Marquette (29-6) pulled away in the final 10 minutes to rout and beat seventh-seeded Michigan State on Sunday to take the Sweet 16’s lead. Qualified.
During Jones’ second-half surge, he scored 17 straight runs, including a trio of 3-point shots.
By the time he finished, the Golden Eagles had increased their lead from 5 points to 17 with just under 10 minutes remaining.