Leaps & Bounds

Still in the process of recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, sophomore guard Brandon Dawson appears to have hit his stride in Big Ten play


It took longer than he initially expected, but Branden Dawson is starting to figure things out.

After spending months searching for his game following a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, in his left knee in last year’s regular season finale, the sophomore guard/forward said he began feeling more comfortable the past two weeks, and the results have shown on the court.

Dawson was a focal point of MSU’s offense Tuesday, regularly slashing to the basket off the dribble and crashing the glass aggressively for rebounds in the No. 13 MSU men’s basketball team’s (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) critical 49-47 road victory at Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2).

The effort resulted in a career-high 18 points and a career-high tying 13 rebounds for Dawson, but Tuesday night’s game wasn’t a significant aberration from the proficient numbers he’s been putting up in conference play.

In his past five starts, Dawson has averaged 14 points and 8.8 rebounds, compared to the 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds he was averaging before this recent hot stretch.

Dawson didn’t play in the first half of the team’s game against Penn State after getting into an altercation with junior center Adreian Payne before the game.

At his weekly press conference Monday, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said there’s no doubt
Dawson has developed into a better player in recent weeks than he was at the beginning of the season.

“Dawson is getting back to where he ended the year last year, when I think he averaged 11 or 11.5 (points) and seven rebounds his last 10 games,” Izzo said. “He’s back up to averaging that and rebounding even better in some ways.”

One notable improvement has been the authoritative manner in which Dawson has snared rebounds, regularly with his head at or near the rim and his arms extended well above it.

In the past, Dawson has credited a better mindset and minimizing frustration for his improved
play, but last week he added another factor that has made a difference.

Dawson said he’s found his comfort zone offensively in large part due to his improved conditioning from the beginning of the season.

Because of the limitations placed on his knee beginning back in March 2012, Dawson wasn’t able to enter the season at the peak physical conditioning level he would have hoped for.

However, last week, the sophomore said he’s starting to hit his stride, and Tuesday’s game added credence to that theory.

“I’m in great shape, I’m running better and that’s the thing,” Dawson said. “When you’re in great shape and you’re running better, you play better. At the beginning of the season, I was struggling a little bit because I was tired a lot, so right now I am comfortable with the way I’m playing.”

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