Branden Dawson and Gavin Schilling’s early foul trouble could’ve signaled doom for MSU but thanks to the bench, it wasn’t the case.
Freshman forward Marvin Clark Jr., junior guard Bryn Forbes and junior forward Colby Wollenman were instrumental in MSU’s 70-63 win against Georgia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
MSU’s bench outscored Georgia’s bench by 12 points, 22-10.
“I don’t think Michigan State has bad players, I think they have quality depth,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “Their depth up front certainly showed.”
Before fans could grab their popcorn and find their seats, Dawson had already picked up two quick fouls.
Dawson only played six minutes in the first half, posting donut holes in the rebounding and points category for the first twenty minutes of action.
“I can’t even count on my fingers how many times I’ve been in foul trouble,” Dawson said. “I think the last time I played 24 minutes was in one of our exhibition games.”
In came Clark Jr. to save the day.
At 6’6” 230 pounds, Clark Jr. and Branden Dawson have similar physiques and if it wasn’t for the jersey number, you would’ve thought Marvin Clark Jr. was Branden Dawson.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Clark Jr. said after his first NCAA tournament appearance. “Whenever my time comes I have to be able to bring something to the table.”
Clark Jr. came in after Dawson picked up his second foul and immediately sunk a driving layup, which started a 9-5 run.
Clark Jr.’s six points may not look that impressive on the stat sheet but without his contributions MSU would've not been able to build a thirteen point halftime advantage.
“That plays into the comradery of our team,” Clark Jr. said. “Everybody on this team is selfless, everybody has confidence in each other, everybody’s ready to step up and play if something doesn’t go our way.”
Forbes also put together one of his best performances of the season against the Bulldogs.
The sharpshooter went 5-8 from the field and 3-6 from beyond the arc, including a four point play in front of the Spartan bench which sent the MSU contingent, seated behind head coach Tom Izzo and company into a frenzy.
Forbes’ 14 points were his most since his 21 point outburst against Wisconsin on March 1st. The junior guard had been scuffling of late, combining to score 14 points in his past three games.
“I know I gotta make shots off the bench,” Forbes said. “I just wanted to bring it, I think I finally got my role.”
Wollenman, who had only combined to play seven minutes in the Big Ten tournament also stepped up in crucial moments when junior forward Matt Costello fouled out.
Wollenman finished with five rebounds in 11 minutes of action.
Head coach Tom Izzo called Wollenman’s performance “phenomenal” and said without the bench stepping up, MSU may have been going home early.
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The Spartans will have Saturday to regroup and then will face second seeded Virginia on Sunday.
Fifteenth seeded Belmont put a scare in UVA on Friday evening but the Cavaliers were able to pull away and win, 79-67.
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