Saturday, December 4, 2021

Big man holds own at Breslin

December 4, 2000
Freshman center Zach Randolph, right, takes the shot while Chicago Flames senior foward Cory Little defends. The Spartans beat the Chicago Flames 97-53 at the game Saturday in the Breslin Student Events Center. —

Even though MSU freshman center Zach Randolph stands 6-foot-9, 270 pounds, his abilities on the court extend beyond the traditional role of a player his size.

Randolph filled that traditional role by rebounding and scoring the majority of his points in the post during a 97-53 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Saturday.

MSU head coach Tom Izzo said in addition to his first career double-double - 19 points and 10 rebounds - Saturday, he also showed a broader range of skills.

“He’s got a lot of talent and I think he’s doing a lot of things better,” Izzo said. “I think he did some great things defensively. He’s making great progress.”

In addition to playing well on defense, Randolph shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line and displayed his ability to run the floor in transition.

“I’m just trying to help out the team and do the best I can,” Randolph said. “I don’t look at myself as playing a role, I just come out and play. I came out with my head (on) straight and tried to play some good ball.”

Senior forward Andre Hutson said Randolph’s play was similar to how he plays in practice because of his increased playing time Saturday.

“The things he was doing tonight we’ve been seeing since he’s got here,” Hutson said. “He just hasn’t had the chance to get out there and actually do them, but tonight he got more minutes and got more comfortable on the floor and made things happen.”

Randolph played 22 minutes Saturday, compared to the 18.5 minutes per game he averaged during the Spartans’ first four regular-season games.

Randolph - who started throughout his entire high school career in Marion, Ind. - said he is having a difficult time finding his rhythm once he is substituted into a game.

“Hopefully I won’t be coming off the bench as time goes on,” Randolph said. “It’s kind of hard because I’ve never been in that situation. I’m used to starting. I don’t think I ever sat the bench.”

Izzo said as the season progresses, Randolph will have to prepare to face bigger and stronger opponents such as Florida’s 6-foot-8, 265-pound center Udonis Haslem, who will face the Spartans on Wednesday.

“He played 22 minutes but at the end some of those minutes weren’t against the biggest players in the world,” Izzo said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the Florida game. (In) certain games we’ll shrink our rotations a little bit more.

“We’ll see if he’s going to have his hands full (against Florida) because there are going to be guys bigger and stronger than he is.”

Senior guard Charlie Bell said even though Randolph plays behind two great post players in Hutson and sophomore forward Al Anagonye, he still does a good job of getting open on the block.

“He does a great job calling for the ball,” Bell said. “Andre and those other guys are so unselfish that they don’t really say anything. Zach is going to let you know when he’s not getting the ball and he’s going to let you know when he’s open. I think that’s one thing he has on some of the other guys.”

Izzo feels that in time, Randolph will not have any problems being the go-to guy in the post, as long as he continues to soak up everything like he has been.

“He’s been very coachable,” Izzo said. “I have to give him a lot of credit on that. He’s been like a sponge wanting to listen and learn and he just has a lot of things he still has to learn.”

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