Thursday, February 22, 2024

Exorcising the Demons

Izzo calls junior guard's game best in Spartan uniform

December 1, 2003
Junior guard Kelvin Torbert celebrates a slam on DePaul guard Sammy Mejia in the Coca-Cola Classic tournament on Sunday. Torbert had 19 points in the 89-91 win and ws the tournament MVP. —

If a breakout season is what those outside East Lansing are expecting from junior guard Kelvin Torbert, they'll have to be satisfied with a breakout tournament instead.

Torbert and No. 3 MSU toppled DePaul 89-81 on Sunday to capture the Coca-Cola Spartan Classic. Torbert scored a combined 34 points in two games - 19 against DePaul and 15 against Penn on Saturday - and received the tournament's most valuable player award.

Previous games against Bucknell and No. 6 Kansas turned up the low offensive numbers that have frustrated the Spartans for two full seasons, but on Sunday, MSU's working-class hero arrived.

"Kelvin Torbert played a hell of a basketball game," DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said. "(He was) opportunistic and making shots and knifing through our defense."

Displaying a confidence in his long-range jumper not seen last season, Torbert tied a personal record Sunday with three 3-pointers, all coming in the first half. In the second half, Torbert's scoring yielded compared to his teammates, but his playmaking down the stretch - two excellent assists in transition and a one-handed tomahawk jam during a DePaul run to narrow the lead - validated his MVP selection.

Enough so for MSU head coach Tom Izzo to call it Torbert's best game in a MSU uniform.

"(DePaul forward Delonte) Holland got some shots, but a lot weren't against him," Izzo said. "Going in and rebounding like he had to do, yeah, I'd say that was his best game as a Spartan and maybe the best weekend he's had."

Despite being the poster child for MSU basketball underachievement, Torbert's role on the team has changed since his early days of high-flying expectations. The 20-plus point totals haven't come often in his two seasons, but Torbert's defense, rebounding and athleticism has improved to be among the best on the team.

"You can't really say (it's the best game)," Torbert said. "I think this was one of my better games, and hopefully I can keep playing consistent."

Aside from leading the team in scoring on Sunday, Torbert had four rebounds and four assists, identical to his totals from Saturday. He also added three steals.

Joining Torbert as tournament honorees were freshman guard Shannon Brown and junior guard Chris Hill. Brown and Hill were named to the all-tournament team along with DePaul's Holland, Andre Brown and Penn's Charlie Copp.

So are two consistent offensive performances in a two-game stretch the real Kelvin Torbert that critics have been looking for?

"Hopefully so," Torbert said. "Hopefully I can keep going out and make plays and help this team win."

Torbert's next chance will be when the Spartans play host to No. 2 Duke on Wednesday in the Atlantic Coast Conference/Big Ten Challenge.

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