EAST LANSING – Following a rather forgettable performance against Nebraska, redshirt junior Joey Hauser approached Tom Izzo with an unexpected request.
Hauser told his coach to make the switch, saying he felt like he wasn't playing well, suggesting Malik Hall take his place in the starting lineup.
"That takes a man to do that," Izzo said. "That's exactly how it happened, and it really takes a man to go out and back it up by playing your butt off."
Malik Hall, alongside Hauser, played within themselves and did precisely what Michigan State needed to beat Penn State.
The sophomore out of Illinois was 3-for-17 shooting over MSU's previous five contests but decided to holster his jumper, driving and dishing all night to finish with 10-points, 4-for-7 from the line, and grabbing five boards.
Hauser, also in a prolonged slump, began by getting to the bucket, picking up loose balls, going coast to coast for a layup, and hitting a runner on the drive.
Then he decided to take his first 3-pointer. A few plays later, when PSU hit its lone triple of the first half to dig into Michigan State's lead, Hauser came back from the timeout, popped out to the perimeter, and drained another three.
"I wouldn't lie to you if I said that in this day and age, that was surprising when he came in," Izzo said of Hauser. "I think he's just searching. I love guys that can self-evaluate. He knows he hasn't been playing as good; tonight, I just thought he had more confidence, he took the ball off the dribble. He just said, 'The hell with it, I'm going to play.'"
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward didn't have an explosive second half, but both he and Hall made the case to be on the floor as an excellent offensive/defensive duo.
"It's pretty cool when two guys were pulling for each other hard," said Izzo. "It's that kind of moment every season you need something and let's face it, we dug a big hole, some of it our fault some of it not our fault, but things like that tell the rest of the players how selfless somebody is and I think it was a monumental step."
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