“Just what the doctor ordered.”
After Michigan State’s blowout win over Eastern Michigan, you got a sense that Head Coach Tom Izzo’s statement was all-encompassing.
This was true for sophomore forward Aaron Henry, who, amid struggles and failure to deliver on lofty preseason expectations, found himself, scoring 12 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and slashing through Eastern Michigan’s zone for six assists.
Henry helped the Spartans make easy work of the defensive scheme that haunted Izzo-coached teams, most notably against Syracuse in the 2018 NCAA tournament, as Izzo noted that they “played as well against the zone as we have in 10 years.”
This was true for senior guard Cassius Winston, who quietly recorded a game-high 21 points, after he “handled himself incredibly well the last week and a half” Izzo said, with respect to Winston's brother Zachary’s death.
The Spartans’ lopsided victory also served as a remedy for freshman forward Julius Marble, who may post the best per-40 minutes stats in the nation by the end of this season, as the Dallas native once again made good with limited minutes.
His nine-point showing in as many minutes played featured his mid-range game, prudent shot selection and ability to finish at the rim as he went 3-of-3 from the field.
“We've been talking about Julius because he's physical enough and he did a couple things in the first half that weren't good and he did a couple things in the second half that were good,” Izzo said when asked about the prospect of Marble seeing increased minutes.
“Malik (Hall) and Julius (Marble) and Foster (Loyer) are going to be key subs.”
After playing sparingly through the beginnings of his college career, Marble may have cracked Izzo’s ever-adjusting rotation, or at the very least earned another shot to do so. Saying that he didn’t want to be “overly aggressive,” the reserved first-year forward picked his spots as he continues to seek a meaningful role.
But Marble’s utterance after the victory was perhaps the most telling of the effect this victory had.
“I'm just happy that we got on a roll today and showed it,” Marble said.
The Spartans had not shown it through their first 11 games, underperforming to the title-favorite expectations they garnered prior to the season’s tip in New York City.
The same locker room that saw junior forward Xavier Tillman answer to reporters after being truly “embarrassed” at the hands of Duke saw sophomore forward Marcus Bingham exclaim “I’m up, man!” and redshirt senior guard Conner George belt “The scout team got that three-point percentage up” to fellow scout team guard Brock Washington.
The aforementioned guards as well as redshirt sophomore guard Jack Hoiberg each recorded a long-distance make Saturday.
You could tell they needed this one before a brief Christmas break. And so did their coach.
“The players needed four days off,” Izzo said. “My assistants need four days off and not very often do I say this, but I think I could use four days off. And I even think I'll take 'em.”