McQuaid’s revival a relief for Spartans

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Matt McQuaid and Miles Bridges

East Lansing — As sophomore guard Matt McQuaid watched the ball splash through the net on Sunday, his excitement was clear to everyone at Breslin Center.

McQuaid was a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the victory over Michigan, and playing a key role in a win over a rival is cause to celebrate. But the emotion coming out of McQuaid was a little more than that.

He was relieved.

“I’m not gonna lie, it did feel good,” he said after practice on Tuesday. “But I gotta kind of put it behind me cause I can’t live off that game. I got to move on, got to get ready for the next game and start preparing for the next game but build off that game.”

Michigan State (13-9, 5-4 Big Ten) is hoping that was just the start for McQuaid. His coaches and teammates felt the same sort of relief when the shots went down, especially for a player that entered the game shooting 6-for-26 from long distance in his previous 10 games.

But for a player that proved he could do it as a freshman last season, success was slow to come following double-hernia surgery in the offseason.

“In the last game I see McQuaid hitting shots and probably you all did like I did,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It was just such a relief and yet I expected to see that all year, not knowing what the summer strengths or weaknesses would bring for him.”

It certainly brought frustration as it took McQuaid a long time to find any rhythm. If he has truly done so it could be huge for the Spartans as they try to keep their head above water in the Big Ten and try to reach a 20th straight NCAA Tournament.

Getting the production it expects from McQuaid would go a long way toward accomplishing those goals.

“If he’s better, we’re better. It’s that simple,” junior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn said. “He made big plays as a freshman the first five games of the season and throughout his freshman year. Pressure is nothing for him. He’s a great player, and if he’s playing at a high level we are a better team.”

That was echoed by fellow guard Eron Harris. While he’s been busy battling his own inconsistencies, he’s also been in McQuaid’s ear.

“You’ve got so much ability and I know that you can’t do everything in a system,” Harris said he told McQuaid, “but you are gonna do what you do best, which is score, shooting from the outside. You can get in (the) paint whenever you want to and you are one of the best defenders. You’ve got to know that and have confidence.”

McQuaid credited his teammates and the coaching staff with helping him fight through his woes. He’s still shooting 35.5 percent from 3-point range, a drop-off from the 40.9 percent he shot last season.

But there’s little doubting the impact a resurgence could have for Michigan State.

“I’ve said it all along, we always worry about the other guys,” Izzo said. “I still think Harris, McQuaid and (Kenny) Goins are the X factors for this team. They don’t have to be great. They have to be solid and they have to do their job.”