East Lansing, MI – When Aaron Henry scored 27 points against Nebraska, it was easy to disregard it and look at the ideal matchups in the opposing player and team guarding him.
But what the junior captain did Tuesday night against Rutgers, who represents some of the best competition in the Big Ten, cannot be ignored.
Henry's performance, which resulted in 20-points on 8-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds, three blocks, and two steals, changed the outlook for MSU.
"I think Aaron Henry is playing at a whole other level ... the last two games, he's been unbelievable defensively, and he got into some people tonight, he knocked some balls loose, it's just his whole demeanor right now, he's even more coachable, not that he hasn't been this year, he's just doing the things he needs to do to become a great player, and he's got a ways to go, but I think that starts it," MSU's Tom Izzo said.
Michigan State entered its fifth conference game looking like a team in jeopardy of snapping an impressive NCAA Tournament streak dating back to 1998 but left knowing they can compete with top tier teams in the league.
In large part, it was thanks to Henry.
Yes, Joey Hauser, Rocket Watts, Joshua Langford, and Malik Hall substantially contributed, leading to a team victory, but he erased MSU's mistakes – Henry helped the Spartans build a cushion and maintain it when Rutgers threatened to come back.
The Indiana native made the Scarlet Knights uncomfortable as he covered ground in the half-court, had active hands in the passing lanes, and drained tough shots, including back-to-back buckets when RU trimmed the lead to six points.
It was a big stretch for Michigan State, and it halted any momentum Rutgers gained.
"Henry is about as efficient and playing about as well – other than the turnovers – as I could ask for in the last two games," said Izzo. "He's starting to get that thing down where he's getting a two-foot stop in the paint and getting shots up. He's done a hell of a job in working on his three, but he's been very efficient and not taking many."
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