Forbes and Harris step up for MSU in Valentine's absence
With senior captain guard Denzel Valentine out with a knee injury against a talented Oakland team, one thing was clear for MSU's players and coaches - someone needed to step up.
That someone turned into two players, with junior transfer guard Eron Harris who started in place of Valentine and senior Bryn Forbes combining for 59 of MSU's 99 points in their 99-93 win over Oakland Tuesday night.
"(Denzel) was just telling me to kind of take control and do what I do best," Forbes said. "I have to score, I have to do more, basically is what he said. We've talked everyday since (the injury) happened, I was actually the first person to find out, but I feel real bad for him - he was just on my side the whole way."
Forbes, who had a career high 32 points, came into the game as MSU's second leading scorer and with Valentine being such a close friend, he was the clear choice for Izzo to feed the ball to throughout the game. He didn't disappoint, making his first six 3-point field goals.
Izzo ran Forbes off of pick after pick as the senior guard continued to get open and knock down his shots, including a corner three with 44 seconds left in overtime to put MSU up 96-91.
Forbes said he felt his teammates were finding him for good shots, making the game come a little easier to him, rather than if he would of had to force the issue.
But with Forbes in foul trouble for much of the night, MSU needed another to step up. Harris was ready for the challenge.
Harris, who had an MSU career high 27 points, including 11-of-15 at the free throw line, finally showed a glimpse of what had fans and coaches so excited when he announced his transfer to MSU.
"Knowing (Denzel) was going to be out, immediately I already knew I was going to have to step up what it is I do," Harris. "What I was brought here for, and that's to be in attack mode, but under control. But also be able to distribute, going to have to crash the boards and I had to play some defense."
Harris had been having a pedestrian season up to this point, averaging just 7 points per game for MSU on 40 percent shooting, with a game high of 12, which he accomplished twice - compared to the 17 points per game on 44 percent shooting he averaged in his lone season at West Virginia.
Harris' struggles even continued into the first half of Tuesday's, as he scored only five points shooting just 1-3 from the field. It appeared Forbes would be alone on his quest to keep MSU undefeated and get them to their best start in school history, 13-0.
"The first half I thought (Eron) wasn't very good either, and maybe some of that was nerves," Izzo said about his teams first half play.
Harris began attacking the hoop in the second half, which he knew he would have to do if he was going to help his team back from a 50-37 halftime deficit, especially with the way the game was being officiated and how physical the game was being played - he said he told his team to be ready for war.
Harris said when he felt the flow of the game and how tightly it would be officiated, he knew he needed to get to the free throw line.
"Coach really got on me (at halftime), and when I came out there (in the second half), my feel was just a little different," Harris said. "I felt like it was time to attack and just really focus on my free throws, those were big in the second half."
Senior forward Matt Costello said the team will hold Harris to a higher standard the rest of the season after his performance Tuesday night, especially on defense.
"For how bad he played in the first half, he did a 180 in the second half," Costello said. "He still made his mistakes, but he put that ball in that hole, hit free throws for us, he played great defense, and so now we've got to hold him to that."