For the second straight game, the Irish faced a large halftime deficit against a top-10 opponent after a painful 20 minutes on the offensive end.
The Michigan State Spartans doubled up the Irish on the glass and rode an electric first half to an 81-63 win, handing the Irish their first loss of the season in punishing fashion.
The Irish were disrupted by the size of the Spartans early and often. Jaren Jackson Jr. blocked a Bonzie Colson shot and quickly turned it into an alley-oop to Miles Bridges, sending the Spartan crowd into a frenzy just minutes into the first half.
The Spartans rode their hot shooting to an early 22-8 lead, a situation the Irish were familiar with after their tough first half against Wichita State in the Maui Invitational Championship. Only this time, they were trailing a top-three team who was lighting it up in front of a raucous home crowd in East Lansing, starting the game shooting 11-for-16 from the floor and owning the glass on both ends of the court.
The Spartans owned an early 12-1 rebounding advantage while holding Colson to an 0-for-4 clip from the field through the first 10 minutes of the game, while the Spartans increased their lead to 31-11 as the Irish searched for any type of offense.
Trying to navigate around enormous size and length in the paint, the Irish shot just 38 percent from the field in the first half, while having five of their first 13 field goal attempts blocked by the Spartan defense. All of the above added up to a 46-26 Spartan lead at the half.
The Irish opened the second half like a team possessed, cutting the lead in half in under four minutes thanks to a 12-2 run, highlighted by a transition triple from Matt Farrell, his first points of the game. He would score five more in the next four minutes to cut the Spartan lead to seven. Farrell would finish with 10 points.
Rex Pflueger was the only Irish shooter to consistently beat the Spartan defense, finishing with 15 points while hitting three of his four three-point attempts. Colson caught fire briefly in the second half to finish with a team-high 17 points, but Michigan State’s defense quickly made adjustments to neutralize Notre Dame’s most potent weapon.
The Spartans came up with multiple daggers as the Irish tried to inch their way back, while keeping up the defensive intensity on the opposite end. The Irish labored to find open looks all night, with most their shots coming highly-contested.
Another alley-oop to Bridges with six minutes left in the second half erupted the crowd once again and pushed the Spartan lead back to 15. Back-to-back threes by Cassius Winston extended the lead back to 20 to put to rest any possibility of another Irish comeback.