Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Freshmen carry Spartans in win

February 25, 2009

Iowa guard Jake Kelly attempts to block sophomore guard Kalin Lucas as he looks for an opportunity to pass or shoot the ball during the second half of Wednesday’s game at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 62-54.

Photo by Angeli Wright | The State News

MSU’s freshmen are growing up before head coach Tom Izzo’s eyes, and the timing couldn’t be better.

With several veterans battling injuries or fighting shooting slumps Wednesday night, No. 9 MSU’s freshmen picked up the slack and saved the day.

Forward Delvon Roe scored a team-high 16 points, guard Korie Lucious added 12, and forward Draymond Green added four for the Spartans, who slipped past Iowa 62-54 at Breslin Center.

“We would have lost (without the freshmen) and we could have anyway,” Izzo said after the game. “We just did not play very good, not very inspired. We played like we didn’t respect the team we were playing, and that happens.”

The totals represented new career highs for both Roe and Lucious. Combined with Green, the three accounted for 52 percent of MSU’s scoring.

Roe finished 6-of-7 from the field, while Lucious finished 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

“We just came out and did what the team needed us to do today,” said Green, who made both his shots at key moments in the second half. “We just played within the system and we scored points to help pick us up and win this game.”

Considering how poorly MSU’s starting guards played, the Spartans (22-5 overall, 12-3 Big Ten) needed all the help they could get from their young guns.

Sophomore guard Kalin Lucas finished with a season-low four points on 2-of-6 shooting, senior Travis Walton scored three, and sophomore Durrell Summers — who went down with a sprained ankle two minutes into the game and didn’t play the entire second half — went scoreless.

“I would say you’d have to classify us as kind of dysfunctional, offensively,” Izzo said. “It’s just been a struggle with (Durrell) Summers out and poor Raymar (Morgan). He’s getting better — he’s able to go now, but he’s just not making enough shots.”

As a team, MSU shot 44.7 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers. Three of those turnovers belonged to Lucas, who Izzo said is still learning about what it takes to be a point guard.

“I don’t know if he’s looking for (shots) as much,” Izzo said. “I think he’s trying to find that happy medium about making some passes and making some shots.”

For a while, it looked as if Lucas’ struggles might cost the Spartans. Iowa (14-14, 4-11), which trailed by as many as 12 points, came within a couple field goals on three separate occasions in the second half.

But each time the Hawkeyes knocked, MSU slammed the door shut with big plays on the other end.

Lucious answered Iowa guard Jake Kelly’s 3-pointer with a trey of his own that put MSU back up by nine with 13:33 remaining.

After Kelly nailed another jumper with 8:27 left that trimmed MSU’s lead to a second half-low five points, MSU senior center Goran Suton sank two clutch free throws to quell the Hawkeyes’ momentum.

Suton finished with nine points on 1-of-5 shooting and four rebounds.

“I think we took a couple steps back tonight,” Suton said. “(We made) ridiculous turnovers again, and really if we played anybody better, we’d lose.”

Kelly finished with a game-high 20 for the Hawkeyes, who shot 45 from the field, including 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from 3-point range. MSU out-rebounded Iowa 33-19.

“Well, it was going to take a nearly perfect game (to beat MSU),” Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said. “We were going to have to make open shots and not miss any. We were going to have to manage keeping them off the glass. They’re a terrific team, well balanced, unselfish, well coached.”

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With the win, MSU extended its lead over Purdue in the Big Ten standings to 1.5 games. The Spartans will close the regular season with games at Illinois on Sunday, at Indiana on Tuesday and against the Boilermakers on March 8.

MSU travels to Champaign to take on the No. 20 Illini on Sunday. Tip-off is slated for 4 p.m.

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