Foster Loyer found his shooting stroke during Michigan State's opener. He'll try to keep the hot hand going when the 13th-ranked Spartans host Notre Dame in the Fighting Irish's season opener on Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.
Loyer had trouble making baskets in practices this month, but the junior point guard scored a career-high 20 points, including six 3-pointers, as the Spartans (1-0) earned an 83-67 victory over Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.
"I have been seeing this all summer and all fall, except for the last two weeks," coach Tom Izzo said. "Poor guy. The last two weeks (he) hasn't made a shot. We're almost joking about it because he's probably the best shooter, and he just wasn't making shots. And to his credit his competitiveness, he made shots, and we got him good shots."
Loyer has emerged as the team's starting floor leader, replacing Cassius Winston, now a member of the Washington Wizards after being a second-round selection in the NBA draft.
"This is who Foster is," backcourt partner Joshua Langford said. "You know he's gonna lead us; he's going to do his job. And I'm just happy for him because, you know, it's kind of difficult playing behind Cash because he's such a great player. ... I'm just happy for him to see him get some reward with the consistency that he's put forward."
Langford and forward Joey Hauser took the court Wednesday after lengthy absences. Langford hadn't played since December 2018 due to foot injuries. Langford, a grad student, scored 10 points in 21 minutes.
Hauser sat out last season after transferring from Marquette. He committed three turnovers during a short span in the first half against Eastern Michigan but settled in during the second half. He contributed 15 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes.
"It was different being back on the court, and it's been a long time," Hauser said. "As you can see, I was kind of struggling to get in the flow of the game, struggling to kind of find myself there. I think I was rushing a little bit too much, but I'm thankful for my teammates, they really picked me up (and) my coaches stay on me about just sticking to what I do best."
The Spartans will face a much tougher challenge in their second game. Eastern Michigan had just eight players available due to injuries and COVID-19-related issues.
The Fighting Irish had their scheduled Friday opener against No. 12 Tennessee canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Volunteers' program. Notre Dame won its opening game 19 consecutive campaigns under coach Mike Brey until a 76-65 loss to North Carolina last season.
Notre Dame, coming off a 20-12 season, is led by guard Prentiss Hubb (12.1 points, 5.1 assists per game last season). Hubb is joined in the backcourt by Dane Goodwin (10.8 ppg) while Juwan Durham (7.8 PPG, 4.6 rpg) and Nate Laszewski (7.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) provide experienced hands up front. The starting five is rounded out by Stanford transfer Cormac Ryan.
"These guys have played a lot of college basketball," Brey said. "They've been around, been in big games. I know it has been a while, but I think poise and handling tough stretches, those are the areas we're going to talk about. We have to be calm and understand there are going to be tough stretches that our leadership must get us through."
Since 1979, the two teams have met just twice, splitting a pair of ACC/Big Ten Challenge games in 2014-15 and 2017-18.
--Field Level Media