Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Spartans flex deep frontcourt against Hawkeyes

December 4, 2018
Senior forward Kenny Goins (25) looks for an open pass during the game against Iowa University at Breslin Center on Dec. 3, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-68.
Senior forward Kenny Goins (25) looks for an open pass during the game against Iowa University at Breslin Center on Dec. 3, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-68. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

The No. 10 Michigan State men’s basketball team put on quite a show Monday evening, as they made quick work of their Big Ten opponent Iowa, topping them 90-68 to get off to a 2-0 start in Big Ten play and improving to 7-2 on the season.

The last time the Spartans put up 90 points against a Big Ten opponent was last February, against Iowa, when the Spartans edged the Hawkeyes 96-93. This time around, however, the Spartans had a much easier time.

Michigan State was able to hold Iowa to 32.8 percent shooting in the game, including 27 percent in the second half. The Spartans also accumulated 44 total rebounds in the game. However, the most impressive part was the offensive showing coming from their three big men, who all put up career-highs in points.

“I think we had really great play from the bigs today,” said forward Kenny Goins after the game. “Give credit to the guards for finding us in the high post. Just between him (Nick Ward), me and X (Xavier Tillman) we were all passing it around in the high post. We were a well oiled machine today.” 

The Spartan starting frontcourt of Ward and Goins accumulated half (45) of the Spartans’ total points in the game. Ward continued his dominance inside this season, going 10-for-10 from the floor to accumulate 26 points to go along with nine rebounds. The junior forward is now averaging 15.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on the season. 

Though Ward converted on all of his field goal opportunities, he did struggle at the free-throw line, going 6-for-11.

“I thought Nick (Ward) played exceptionally well,” coach Tom Izzo said after the game on Monday. “I guess 10-for-10, there’s not a lot I can yell at him about. So, I’ve got to give Nick all the credit in the world, although he did miss a few free throws. But, he had a great game.”

The Spartans had a nice showing off the bench from Tillman, who put up 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Tillman also brought in eight rebounds in his 18 minutes on the court. 

However, it was Goins that really turned heads, falling three assists shy of a triple-double.

“I kinda nudged coach to put me back in towards the end to try and get it, but I can’t really be mad about stats,” Goins said. “I would only think about statistics if we were up as much as we were.” 

Goins dropped 19 points while going 6-for-11 on the night. He also put up 14 rebounds for his fifth double-digit rebounding effort of the season. His seven assists was also tied a career high he set last December against Oakland

“Well, I think you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Kenny (Goins). I think you’ve got to give a lot of credit to (assistant coach) Dwayne Stephens,” Izzo said. “You know, we’ve really harked on those three guys getting better.” (Izzo 3:33)

In total, the trio of Goins, Ward and Tillman combined for 59 points on 21-for-27 shooting (77.8 percent) while bringing in 31 of their teams 44 rebounds on the night.

“I guess D.J. (Stephens) gets the day off tomorrow while the rest of us work,” Izzo said. “That was a hell of a performance, plus they rebounded the ball pretty well with 8, 9 and 14.” 

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