DETROIT — Michigan State and Oakland have one of the most lopsided rivalries in college basketball. It also is one of the friendliest.
With Saturday’s 72-49 victory at Little Caesars Arena, Tom Izzo and the No. 16 Spartans (7-3) are now 18-0 against Greg Kampe’s Golden Grizzlies, with all 18 games coming in the last 21 years.
“I love this game, but there’s nothing I love about beating a team 18 straight times, especially when it means beating a good friend,” Izzo said. “It’s just so good to come down here, because we get a great crowd of Spartans who don’t usually get to see us play.
“And it is great to see what is happening in this city.”
For Kampe, who started his Oakland (5-6) career when the then-Pioneers were still in Division II, a victory over Michigan State remains one unchecked box on his coaching bucket list.
“I’m not trying to beat Tom — that’s not what these games are all about,” he said. “This is about Oakland trying to beat Michigan State — one of the best programs in the country.”
The game was a defensive struggle, with both teams having offensive troubles. Oakland’s size forced Michigan State into 33 3-point attempts, while the Golden Grizzlies tried and failed to score in the paint.
“Taking 33 3s is a joke, but most of those were because of the way Greg guarded us,” Izzo said. “It was a good idea, because Cassius (Winston) went 1-for-9 and Gabe (Brown) went 0-for-5. We’re not used to that.”
Aaron Henry put up 10 points and six assists but was the only Spartan to reach double figures. Xavier Tillman added nine points and 13 rebounds.
“I never thought I’d lead us with 10 points, but that’s just how it was today,” Henry said. “We couldn’t hit any shots.”
Xavier Hill-Mais led Oakland with 10 points. The Golden Grizzlies, who have come close to upsetting their in-state rivals in past years with a high-speed, 3-point-heavy offense, shot just 26%, including 31% (7-22) on 3-pointers.
“We expected to have two of the top shooters in the country coming back this year, but they didn’t, and they left when it was too late to replace them,” Kampe said. “We’re not a good shooting team and we’re going to have to find a way to win without threes.”
Michigan State took control early, using an 18-3 run to take a 24-9 lead with eight minutes left in the first half. The Spartans led 34-19 at halftime, holding the Golden Grizzlies to 23% shooting, including 1 of 6 on 3-pointers.
The Spartans made only 21% (3 of 14) of their 3s in the first half but hit a pair on their first two possessions of the second half to go up by 21.
Kampe picked up a technical foul with his team down 52-30 midway through the second half, and his team struggled to keep the game from getting out of hand down the stretch.
Izzo put son Steven into the game for the final moments, and he delighted the crowd with three rebounds.
“Those rebounds didn’t mean much in the context of the game, but it meant a lot to see how the fans reacted to them,” Izzo said. “Memories last a lifetime and those memories will last two lifetimes.”
Spartans: Although Michigan State was cheered by most of the 18,145 fans, it was officially a road game for the Spartans. MSU will play Oakland for the next six seasons, with the game alternating between the Breslin Center in Lansing and Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Golden Grizzlies: The first Michigan State-Oakland game opened the “O”-rena in Rochester in 1998, but the Spartans have never been back. All of Oakland’s subsequent “home” games have been hosted at the Palace of Auburn Hills or Little Caesars Arena.
A LOT OF COACHING EXPERIENCE
Kampe (36 seasons) and Izzo (25 seasons) have combined for 1,263 wins and 61 seasons in the only head coaching jobs they’ve ever held. Izzo, though, wasn’t thrilled when asked about the duo being at their schools for “70 years.”
“I shouldn’t even answer that question, because you made me absolutely terrible when you said I’d been here for 75 years,” he said. “We’ve extended the series contract for six more years, so I guess you’ll say we’ve been here for 90 years by then.”
KAMPE GRUDGINGLY PRAISES OFFICIALS
Oakland’s three post players — Hill-Mais, Daniel Oladapo and Brad Brechting — were a combined 8 of 34 from the floor. Kampe felt it was all due to the good officiating.
“The officials called a good, consistent game, which is what you want,” he said. “But they called a physical game, and we can’t beat that team in a physical game.”
A comfortable win on national television won’t hurt Michigan State’s No. 16 ranking, but Oakland isn’t a high-caliber opponent. The Spartans will be tested more on Wednesday when they face Northwestern on the road.
Spartans: At Northwestern on Wednesday.
Golden Grizzlies: At Syracuse on Wednesday.