Putback a huge moment for Branden Dawson
Syracuse, N.Y. — Branden Dawson had heard what Louisville's Montrezl Harrell said Saturday.
He knew full well the Cardinals' star questioned whether Dawson would have the energy to keep up. And for the first half, Harrell looked like quite the prognosticator.
Harrell had 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting and Louisville led by eight. Dawson, on the other hand was struggling. He was 1-for-5 and then opened the second half with a huge turnover that led to an easy bucket just as Michigan State was starting to rally.
But the Michigan State senior never wavered.
"We had an up-and-down season, but Coach (Tom Izzo) is always on me," Dawson said. "Other coaches and players, my teammates, they're always on me. Coach G (assistant Mike Garland), before the game he told me, 'Don't pay attention to what everyone else is saying.' He said, 'Just go out and just have faith and believe.' I just told myself, 'Hey, don't think about anything, just go out, just play hard, and we're in a great position.' "
It proved to be prophetic as Dawson went in and out of the game in the second half but was in when it mattered most, making two of the biggest plays of the game.
With Michigan State leading, 72-70, and the clock under a minute in overtime, he got the ball in the lane and saw a wide-open Bryn Forbes in the corner. Forbes had already nailed four 3-pointers and Dawson fired it to the sharp-shooter.
Forbes shot went up, and instead of admiring it, Dawson went to the glass. The ball hit the rim and came right to Dawson, who went up and shot the ball back in off the glass in one motion, giving the Spartans a 74-70 lead with 28 seconds to play.
"When I got the ball I turned and faced and I realized how open Bryn was," Dawson said. "He was making shots all game. I was kind of shocked they left him wide open. I saw him in the corner, and I threw it to him. The shot looked good. When it came off, just being in the right place at the right time. The ball came to me, and I went up and I was falling down at the same time."
Dawson wasn't done. On Louisville's next possession, he and Denzel Valentine got their hands on a pass and battled it into the arms of Travis Trice. He nailed two free throws to ice the game.
But the rebound was the big one, and it came after Izzo told him at the end of regulation that he needed to be on the glass.
"I had 11 rebounds tonight, but Coach is always saying I should have had 20," Dawson said. "It was great just to get that offensive rebound. It was great for this team and for myself. So it feels good."