The game of Matt McQuaid's life comes at the perfect time
CHICAGO — As he stepped up to cut down the nets after winning the Big Ten tournament final 65-60 over Michigan, senior guard Matt McQuaid paused and pointed to his teammate, redshirt junior forward Kyle Ahrens. “Arnie, this is for you,” he said.
The Spartans cut down the nets for Ahrens, who suffered a badly sprained left ankle with 4:34 left in the first half.
For Ahrens, but because of McQuaid.
The Duncanville, Texas, native scored a career-high 27 points on 8-15 shooting, including 7-13 from three-point range. His three with 2:02 remaining cut Michigan’s lead to 60-58, and sparked the 10-0 MSU run that closed the game.
“When I came out (of the tunnel after receiving medical treatment) and I saw he had 21, I thought it was his number, like he had 20 or something,” Ahrens said of McQuaid. “Then he hit a three and I looked up, and I was like, ‘What?’ I’m so happy for him. He deserves it. We call him ‘Big Shot’ for a reason.”
McQuaid was the only MSU player to hit a three-pointer after the Ahrens' injury. The rest of the team finished 2-10 from behind the arc.
“Each and every day, somebody steps up,” junior point guard Cassius Winston said.
Winston assisted on all seven of McQuaid’s made three-pointers.
“Nobody else was making shots, we tried to put him in different spots and roll him up,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “Cassius found him and it was like those two are connected like Steve Young and Jerry Rice. It was unbelievable.”
His three just seconds after the game resumed following Ahrens' injury brought the energy back into a United Center that had fallen silent.
“It was very emotional for me since we’re such good friends,” McQuaid said. “(We have been) roommates since my freshman year, we’ve been through a lot together… I just wanted to leave it all out on the court for him.”
Michigan center Jon Teske said he doesn’t think Michigan could have played McQuaid differently.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Teske said. “He got shots, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with our defense. When Cassius found him open in the corner, I mean, he’s a tremendous shooter. He’s gonna knock down those shots. That’s what he’s there to do.”
McQuaid played a career-high 39 minutes.
“Some love it, some like it, some live it and Matt McQuaid lives it,” Izzo said. “If there’s ever a guy that deserved to have what happened to him today, it’s Matt. We asked him to do a lot defensively … I don’t know how many minutes he played, but it was a lot at a high level and he made some big, big shots.”