MSU 74, Bowling Green 60: The kids are more than alright
There is something about Branden Dawson.
Maybe it’s his freaky athletic abilities.
Could be his smooth slashing ability that has flashes of Raymar Morgan.
Might be how Tom Izzo has started running the backdoor alley-oop to his star freshman (a la Durrell Summers).
But what you see of the guy wearing No. 22 between the plays and on the bench are what really makes him Branden Dawson.
The boy is hungry to learn. Look at the picture on the right. It’s during the first half of the Spartans’ 74-60 win against Bowling Green on Saturday night.
That is the look of a player who is soaking up every word from the coach he knows can make him the best player he can be. That is the look of a player who wants to get better and better and better.
And the work, effort and dedication of a young player resulted in 23 minutes of playing time a week after he played only 10 minutes against Gonzaga.
Against Bowling Green, Dawson’s 23 minutes were characterized by hustle plays, playing defense with a hand in the face of his man, knocking the ball out of driving players’ hands and a couple of hard-earned three-point plays.
But a moment with eight minutes to go in the second half showed just as much as the nifty left-handed finish on an alley-opp from Brandon Wood. On the defensive end, Dawson recognized he had missed a help assignment and Travis Trice was called for a foul — which prompted Dawson to look toward Izzo and pointed at himself before jogging over to talk to the coach and listen to what he should have done and undoubtedly, what he will learn from the little mistakes.
So as nice as his 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting performance was, the two steals, two blocks and the things unaccounted for in box scores were more encouraging from a player who is an integral part of this team and those in the upcoming years.
Izzo had this to say after the game: “I think his potential is still untapped, but at least we’re starting to put a spike in it.”
Trice is seriously, seriously nice
Hello, Travis Trice. Now, Trice is 6-foot, and the guy he blocked, Jordon Crawford, is 5-foot-6…but that doesn’t matter here. This is a sick block, and it ignited the Spartans on two consecutive offensive possession that changed the pace of the game. If Crawford lays that shot in, it is a six-point lead for the Spartans, instead after Derrick Nix scored four points in a row, the lead ballooned to 12 and MSU never looked back.
Oh, and just to add to his highlight reel, Trice dropped this dime to Nix about a minute later.
Not too shabby.
Speaking of not too shabby, Nix is looking flat-out fantastic. He had best performance as a Spartan, racking up 14 points and seven rebounds. At one point he prompted Greg Kelser to call him, “The Dancing Bear.” That should not catch on as it is plain awful, but amusing nonetheless.
The emergence of Nix — and Adreian Payne — is a welcome sign for MSU fans. I guess when you cut out your high school pregame meal of a Little Caesars Hot-N-Ready pizza and a two-liter of anything filled with sugar, you are bound to become a more explosive athlete.
For anyone who hasn’t seen this yet, here is a comparison between summer of ’09 Nix to fall of ’11 Nix (version 2.0, if you will).
Having lacked major contributions from a true post player since Paul Davis was at center in 2002-05, a couple of big bodies in the paint to bash against upcoming Big Ten opponents is just the thing recent editions of Izzo’s Spartans have lacked. It would be fair to say watching Nix against Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger should be an intriguing matchup of big men.
Football seniors honored at halftime
Mark Dantonio was joined at halftime on the court by some of the senior members of the football team. They were honored for their achievements as the winningest class in school history. Here is a pretty cool photo from the MSU football Twitter account. And here is another.
Not only was this a much deserved move — which frankly should have taken place with students on campus to give these players a proper ovation — but a smart one on Dantonio’s part given the large number of potential recruits at the game. Saturday was junior day, where plenty of players who have or could received scholarship offers were checking out the campus. A few top senior prospects for the 2012 class also were in attendance, which likely led to this taking place Saturday opposed to when students return from break.
At the end of his short speech, Dantonio said, “Go Green. Beat Georgia!”