EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Bryn Forbes might be Michigan State's most pivotal player.
In wins, the sweet-shooting senior averages 17 points, makes 55 percent of his 3-pointers and hits 54 percent of his shots overall. In losses, the 6-foot-3 guard averages five points while connecting on just 16 percent of 3-pointers and 24 percent overall for the second-ranked Spartans.
Coach Tom Izzo says he hates analytics, but acknowledged Forbes' critical role.
''Some of those games where he was stopped, (Denzel) Valentine wasn't here, Tum (Nairn) wasn't here,'' Izzo said Monday.
Michigan State (26-5) will probably be missing only reserve forward Kenny Goins, who is recovering from a knee injury, as the second-seeded team at this week's Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
The Spartans will play in the quarterfinals Friday night against the winner of the Ohio State-Penn State game. A lot has to happen for them to match up with fifth-seeded Iowa in the finals, and that may be a good thing for Forbes. The Hawkeyes held Forbes to three points and two points in their two wins against Michigan State by staying in his face with physical defense.
''Yeah, they came after me,'' he said.
Iowa allowed Forbes to make only 1 of 10 shots while being guarded at least at times by Anthony Clemmons, a former Lansing Sexton High School teammate.
''We marked him and we stayed after him,'' Iowa coach Fran McCaffery recalled. ''And the key is, you cannot relax for one half of one possession if you're going to try to stop Bryn Forbes. If you do, he's going to get you.''
Forbes, who has a quick release on his shot, said if he gets another chance to play the Hawkeyes, he will be more prepared.
''I think I'm a lot better coming off screens, getting open now,'' he said. ''And, that makes it a lot easier.''
Forbes' ability to be with his son, who is almost 3, and his 30-year-old sister, who has Lyme disease, became easier two years ago when he transferred from Cleveland State to return close to home. The NCAA granted him a waiver to play right away last season as a junior, instead of having to sit out a year, to help him with family obligations.
While Forbes' parents and his son joined him Saturday for a celebration honoring the seniors after a win over Ohio State, his sister, Erin, was unable to attend because she recently got out of the hospital.
''She is just coming out of remission,'' Sue Forbes said. ''Bryn visits her when he can, but she goes to sleep really early.''
Forbes was a relatively overlooked recruit coming out of high school, where he won consecutive state titles with Valentine and Clemmons. He ended up settling for an offer to attend Cleveland State, where he averaged 12.7 points as a freshman and 15.6 points as a junior. He averaged a modest 8.5 points last year before his breakout performance this season, averaging 15-plus a game to trail only Valentine on the team in scoring.
Forbes was named Big Ten player of the week after averaging 23.5 points in two wins, including one against Rutgers in which he made a Big Ten-record 11 3-pointers and scored a career-high 33 points. He is making nearly 51 percent of his 3-pointers, ranking second in the nation and is second in school record books for a single season.
''Last year was a pretty good year, making it to the Final Four,'' he said. ''I think we're doing pretty well this year and we've got high hopes, trying to do even better than last year.''
Forbes' mother is planning on that.
''I've already got my ticket to Houston,'' she said. ''I told him, `I'm going to the Final Four, I hope you're going with me.'''
If Forbes can flourish, Izzo's chances of getting to an eighth Final Four and winning a second championship will likely improve.
''Last game, he had some open shots he didn't make,'' Izzo said. ''He's just as responsible for that as other guys are for responsible rebounding. Bryn's responsible for making shots.''
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