Thanksgiving might be somewhat awkward for coach Tom Izzo this year after No. 4 Michigan State suffered a 79-76 overtime, upset loss to Izzo’s nephew, Matt Bucklin, and James Madison on Monday in the season opener for both teams.
Bucklin is an assistant for the Dukes, and his mother, Mary, is Izzo’s sister. Izzo booked James Madison for the Spartans’ season opener in part because of his nephew’s role with the team.
But Michigan State, a 16.5-point favorite per ESPN BET, finished 1-for-20 from the 3-point line.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Michigan State is the first Associated Press top-five team to lose its season opener at home against an unranked opponent since Kentucky lost at home to Western Kentucky in 2001. Izzo entered the game with a 21-7 record in season openers, as per Michigan State.
And the Spartans had not lost a home game in November since David Robinson, the Basketball Hall of Famer who starred for the San Antonio Spurs, led Navy to a 91-90 overtime win in 1986.
James Madison coach Mark Byington said his team was resilient throughout the matchup.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Byington said on Big Ten Network after the win. “It was our first game and we’re playing against one of the best teams in the country, one of the best environments in the country. And I was proud of our guys. … They just never gave in.”
For Michigan State, Tyson Walker scored 35 points on a 12-for-26 shooting night. The rest of the roster, however, finished 14-for-46.
“I don’t know if I have ever seen us shoot that poorly,” Izzo said.
Terrence Edwards Jr. led James Madison with 24 points.
“Give them a lot of credit,” Izzo said. “They played better than us. They played harder than us.”
“Some of our more dependable, trustworthy guys got into foul trouble,” Byington said. “Everybody, when they came in, they were able to step up. They were able to make plays.”
The Dukes won 22 games last year, two short of the school record set in 1982, and might be even better this season. James Madison is the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt this season in its second year in the conference.
“This can’t be our biggest game of the year,” Byington said. “It’s great for these guys, but we have to get better.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.