Michigan State's Clark responds, learns from benching
East Lansing — If Saturday's loss to Texas Southern was a tough pill to swallow for Michigan State, it had to especially hard for freshman Marvin Clark Jr.
After starting and playing 11 minutes in the first half on Saturday, Clark never got off the bench in the second half.
"He's got to grow up," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said that night. "He didn't do anything that wrong, he just wasn't dialed in. I warned him, and I said I'm not afraid to lose."
Lose the Spartans did, and when Izzo met with his players individually Sunday, Clark took the blame for the loss.
"At the end of the day, if you're not doing what your boss wants you to, it's the next man up," Clark said. "That's what Coach showed me and it sucks because if I would have played, I feel like we would have won, but that's something that he tried to show me is that I can't let my emotions take the wheel."
But after Clark bounced back on Monday with 12 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes of action in an 82-56 victory over The Citadel, he was happy to have gone through it.
"Oh yeah, really frustrating," Clark said of the benching. "It's humbling, first and foremost, but I'm happy I'm learning it as a freshman."
Izzo said he wasn't any harder on Clark on Sunday, but he did make it clear to the freshman the things he has to improve on to continue to see consistent playing time.
"He's got to play both ends of the court," Izzo said. "He's flicking that shot, shooting it like a hot potato — he doesn't have to. Tonight he did a lot better things. He guarded a little better. He rebounded pretty good. He did some better things —I think he'll grow from this.
"He kinda took some of the blame for the loss. I said, 'No, I made the decision.' That's why I was critical of myself. The decisions are for the big picture not the small picture — I think they'll pay dividends. He responded, he worked his butt off yesterday."
While Clark was much more active on the glass and at the defensive end on Monday, his shot is still missing. After starting out the season 11-for-18 from 3-point range, Clark is just 2-for-13 over the last seven games.
He vowed to spend plenty of time of the next few days to sort through his shot.
"Over this little break, I am going to get thousands of shots up," he said. "I need to get myself going and get myself back going from the 3. I think I need to just let the game come to me a little more. When I get it, I just fire it off and I think that's one thing I need to focus on is just letting the game came to me."
Junior guard Denzel Valentine played with protective goggles on Monday after suffering a scratched cornea in his left eye late in the Texas Southern game.
It didn't have much of an effect on him as he was 8-for-11 from the field and scored 18 points.
Valentine said after the Texas Southern game on Saturday, he ended up at the emergency room with a "pain like I never felt before." But some eye drops, a clear contact lens and the goggles had him ready by game time on Monday.
"It was a little blurry, my left eye," Valentine said. "But it's pretty much back to normal."
Michigan State doesn't play again until it hosts Maryland on Dec. 30 and the players will be off until reporting back on Friday.
"The first two days it'll be (a lot of) conditioning. I mean, we're going to get after it," Izzo said. "I don't think this team's in shape. I don't think one bit of it is their fault. Not one bit. When you only have four, five healthy guys, you have to structure practice differently. The problem is then you're structuring for the guys who are kinda unhealthy. The guys that are healthy don't get as much in. I think it hurt us to be on the road as much as we were. … We come back the night of the 26th and we'll have a gut-wrencher that night. And the next day we'll have a couple of them. And then we'll start figuring out where we are on the 28th."
Senior guard Travis Trice handed out a career-high 11 assists against The Citadel.
… Matt Costello scored 13 points, the fifth straight game the junior has scored in double figures.
… Michigan State scored a season-high 50 points in the second half.
… Four players scored in double-figures, making Michigan State 7-0 when at least four players score 10 points or more.