Uncertainty over Nairn ‘frustrating’ for Spartans
East Lansing – Tom Izzo has given up trying to speculate when Michigan State might get guard Tum Tum Nairn back in the lineup.
But one thing is certain, at least as far as the Spartans’ coach is concerned – they’d be a lot better off with the sophomore in the lineup.
“We miss that kid,” Izzo said on Monday. “That kid can push it from one end to the other as good as anybody and he can defend as good as anybody.”
No. 8 Michigan State has been without Nairn for six straight games as he suffers from plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Nairn went through limited drills last week and dressed for Saturday’s game at Michigan, but it appears he’s no closer to being ready.
“It’s really been frustrating for me,” Izzo said. “I don’t know if he’ll play in the next month. He’s not going to be able to practice much. It did not get a lot better; it’s probably going to be that 6-8 week thing. … The pain isn’t quite where it was when we took him out, so we’ve gotten rid of some of that.
“I don’t want to make some Earth-shattering news, but I don’t see him coming back and playing any kind of minutes that are going to make us change what we’re doing. I see it as three minutes here, four minutes there, two minutes there. Maybe he gets to six or eight minutes a game. Maybe he gets three or four. Maybe it’s an emergency on foul trouble.”
And that is likely the best Michigan State will get from Nairn the rest of the season.
Nairn last played on Jan. 14 against Iowa, and since then, the lineup has shuffled. Freshman Matt McQuaid started the next game, but it’s been senior Denzel Valentine at the point since, leading the Spartans to four straight victories.
“I just don't see this changing until the end of the year and it's been hard on him, hard on us,” Izzo said. “He's probably not going to practice anymore unless it means little things here or there, a walk-through, just in case, so he knows what's going on.”
‘Confidence is contagious’
Izzo always believed Michigan State would be a good shooting team this season, but the past couple of weeks have been especially impressive from 3-point range.
The Spartans lead the Big Ten at 42.4 percent, a number that places them fourth in the nation.
Valentine and fellow senior Bryn Forbes have been effective all season, while junior Eron Harris and freshman Matt McQuaid have had their moments, as well.
“I think this day and age confidence is contagious,” Izzo said. “So if you’re feeling good and you’re feeling comfortable and you’re feeling confident, and energy is contagious. You kind of feed off each other.”
Forbes leads the Big Ten at 50.3 percent, while Valentine is 10th at 44 percent. Harris and McQuaid aren’t getting the same number of shots, but McQuaid is at 42.6 percent and Harris 39.4.
“Denzel is getting five, six, seven assists per game,” Izzo explained, “and those crosscourt passes that he can throw are almost like inside-out passes. I don’t need Bryn coming off a screen to get them. Denzel can fake into the post, hit him on a cross-court and he’s open. Denzel has a lot to do with our whole team’s shooting in that respect.”
Michigan State has won seven straight against Purdue, including three in a row at Mackey Arena. The last time Purdue won was when it swept the regular-season series in 2011.
However, Michigan State got a victory over Purdue that season in the Big Ten tournament, a win that essentially locked up an NCAA Tournament bid.
… Purdue senior A.J. Hammons ranks second in the Big Ten in blocks (2.4 per game), third in field-goal percentage (.600) and fourth in rebounding (8.0).