Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Freshman point guard shines in Taylors absence

January 7, 2002

Minneapolis - MSU freshman guard Chris Hill never imagined he would be starting in the first Big Ten opener of his collegiate career.

Neither did sophomore point guard Marcus Taylor, who planned on directing the No. 19 Spartans (9-5 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) against Minnesota (8-5, 1-1) after Saturday’s opening tip.

During the Spartans’ morning shoot around, Taylor sustained an injury reminiscent of those found on the MSU football team - a freakish one.

“He just grabbed the ball and turned and I don’t know if something went out of whack and he started spasming up to the point he couldn’t even breathe well,” said MSU head basketball coach Tom Izzo.

After the shoot-around, imagination became reality as Hill found himself promoted to MSU’s starting point guard.

“You wouldn’t think (you’d be starting), especially with Marcus,” Hill said. “But we caught a tough break (Saturday) with him being out and not being able to play.”

By game time the young guard was prepared to fill in for Taylor mentally, but physically the pregame jitters were too much for Hill to stomach as he found himself vomiting for the second time this season - 14 days earlier in a 68-64 win over Seton Hall, Hill found himself in a similar situation courtside.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with the kid, he was throwing up before the game started,” Izzo said. “I said, ‘You sick again?’ and he said, ‘No, it’s just nerves.’

“So that was rewarding. He got rid of that and got out there and played a hell of a game.”

Hill said filling in for Taylor had nothing to do with the early exit of his breakfast and that he’s uncertain if the excitement of Big Ten games will make vomiting a season-long practice.

“I don’t know if it’s becoming a habit or what,” Hill said. “I think it was just a pregame thing. Some guys do that. I don’t know if I am one of them or not.”

Dealing with a little stomach ailment is at the low end of toughness which Hill has demonstrated for the Spartans. Saturday was no exception, as Hill tallied career highs in both minutes with 38 and points with a game-high 25, while shooting 8 of 14 from the field.

“He doesn’t seem to be going through the ups and downs of most freshmen,” said Minnesota head coach Dan Monson. “He’s tough because he really is the one guy we were focused on in the zone and he goes for 25 on us as a freshman, that’s a credit to how good he’s going to be.”

In his 38th minute of play, Hill closed the door on fatigue and rode his will to play hard with one of his toughest plays to date.

With 51 seconds remaining, Hill found himself mixed up on offense with the shot clock running down. Without hesitation Hill delivered a floating three-pointer off the glass to give the Spartans their final lead of the game, 67-66.

Despite the impressive play, Izzo said he won’t give the youngster credit.

“The banked-in one, I can’t give him credit for that one,” Izzo said. “I mean that was pretty lucky.”

Hill was unable to lead MSU to its first Big Ten win, but his effort was valiant and Taylor was proud of his understudy after the game.

“He played great,” Taylor said. “He definitely stepped up, especially in the second half.”


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