East Lansing — For a little less than 25 minutes on Wednesday night, Michigan State was finally at full strength.
Well, maybe not quite full strength, but for the first time all season every player on the roster was available as freshman Javon Bess was set to make his season debut after missing the first 10 games because of a broken foot.
But with 15:30 to play in Michigan State's victory over Eastern Michigan, senior forward Branden Dawson landed awkwardly on his left wrist while going for a dunk and left the game. Tests revealed on Thursday he had a stable, non-displaced fracture that would keep him out for at least the next two games, starting tonight against Texas Southern.
"That was crazy," senior guard Travis Trice said. "I thought about that coming out of a huddle, we had JB back and Alvin (Ellis III). We had a full squad and then BJ goes down. But he'll be back soon so we're not worried about him missing much time."
The initial prognosis is Dawson could be back for the Big Ten opener Dec. 30 against Maryland, but his loss comes on the heels of getting Bess back in the lineup as well as Ellis getting close to 100 percent after missing six games with a sprained ankle.
While the loss of Dawson might not hurt as much considering the Spartans will have eight days between games after hosting The Citadel on Monday, it does mean they won't have the chance to take advantage of the extra practice time with a full lineup.
It will, however, create more of an opportunity for Bess, who is expected to slowly work into the lineup but could see that pace accelerated at this point. And that could mean plenty for Michigan State.
"When he's 100 percent he's scary," junior guard Denzel Valentine said of Bess.
"He can do a lot of things. He's really good at attacking, can guard multiple positions, he rebounds and plays defense. He does it all pretty much."
And with just two games remaining before conference play begins, the Spartans feel — even with three competitive losses — they are headed in the right direction.
"Getting Alvin back and JB back, and when we get Branden back, getting used to playing with everybody and having a full squad," Trice said of what the key is over the next couple of weeks. "Other than that I feel really good where we're at. It's the small things, really but I feel great about where we're at."
Freshman Marvin Clark likely will start tonight in Dawson's place as Michigan State takes on a Texas Southern team that has won just one of its first nine games.
That game, against Lamar, also happened to be the only home game for the Tigers, who are coached by former Indiana coach Mike Davis.
"I have great respect for Mike and the job he does," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "This will be a good time for us to really home in on our offensive stuff now and see if we can get Alvin and Marvin going a little bit.
"I like where Travis is and I'm not worried about Zel at all."
Bryn (Forbes) is playing pretty well, playing hard and hitting big shots.
"We've got to work on the break still. When we're running it right it's really good. And now we'll have a chance to work on our man offense. They will man us more and that is really what we want to improve on and we'll spend some time on that the next few days."
Texas Southern at Michigan State
Tip-off: 5 today, Breslin Center, East Lansing
TV/radio: ESPNU/WJR 760
Records: Texas Southern 1-8; No. 25 Michigan State 8-3
Notable: Michigan State assistant coach Dane Fife played for Texas Southern coach Mike Davis at Indiana. Davis was head coach for Fife's final two seasons in Bloomington (2000-02).