Written by Caleb Wojcik
After a less than stellar first half performance by the Spartans in Bloomington, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wanted to send a message to senior center Paul Davis. He was benched to start the second half. Davisâ€™ two first half fouls and a couple missed fadeaway jumpers were the reasons for Izzoâ€™s decision. When asked, Izzo â€œwanted to make a point to Paul that he has to take the ball to the basket instead of shooting those fade shots. I guess I havenâ€™t done a very good job of that this year, and so I reverted back to a way I know best.â€
Paul Davis took the benching to heart and had a much better second half. After scoring only four points in the first half, Davis finished the game with 14 points and only one missed shot attempt in the second half. â€œIt was just me realizing what it costs us,â€ said Davis. â€œJust realizing that those fadeaway shots can cost us.â€ Despite fouling out, Davis was just playing hard. He was called for some questionable fouls where he was basically just showing effort on loose balls.
Izzo started red-shirt freshman Idong Ibok in place of Davis in the second half. After personally seeing Ibokâ€™s strong play in practice on Friday, he didnâ€™t let up one bit while in the game. Playing only five minutes, he picked up two smart fouls playing against Marco Killingsworth. Ibok played strong in the defensive post position and forced a bad shot by Killingsworth. His play sparked the Spartans to come back from the 16 point second half deficit. â€œIt felt good getting out there, I was glad I got the opportunity,â€ Ibok said. â€œKillingsworth, heâ€™s a big guy and tough to guard, but I tried my best.â€
Hopefully the Spartans take this hard 78-71 loss as a lesson. Paul Davis has an excellent jump shot when he attacks the defender or he is already open. He doesnâ€™t have to force it, he just has to take the shot when he is open.
Another lesson learned is that Maurice Ager is back, as his 30 point effort shows. The reason? He is finally driving to the basket again. Ager is at his best in the open court. On breakaways and coming off screens, he and Shannon Brown are rarely stopped when they drive. They can hit the occasional three-pointer as well when they are open, but they need to keep the threat of them driving the lane in the opponents head.
As long as the Spartans can continue to play strong in these areas and clean up their turnover problems, they can try to make a run at the Big Ten Tourney.