Eron Harris' injury further dampens Spartans’ spirits
West Lafayette, Ind. — Playing about an hour from home, Michigan State senior Eron Harris was hoping for one, final, big game back in his home state.
Instead, the Spartans guard from Indianapolis suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury midway through the second half of Michigan State’s 80-63 loss to Purdue at Mackey Arena on Saturday, one that forced him to be taken off the court on a stretcher.
After the game, Harris was on crutches and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was unsure of an official prognosis for Harris with just four games left in the regular season.
“It’s listed as a badly sprained knee,” Izzo said after the game. “What that means I don’t know. He’ll get an MRI when he gets back home. It doesn’t look like anything great but I have no idea. I just saw him before I saw you guys and it’s sad. That kid has been playing his tail off and working his butt off. He was becoming a better leader and I don’t know.
“He’ll be out for a while and yet who knows how long. I guess we’ll find out by Monday.”
The former transfer from West Virginia was counted on to be one of Michigan State’s biggest scoring threats this season but has been plagued by inconsistency. That has not hurt his standing with his teammates, though, some who were brought to tears as Harris hit the floor with 9:18 left in the second half and screamed in pain after his right leg buckled.
“It was really difficult,” freshman Miles Bridges said. “He’s like a big brother to me so I’m just praying for him, hoping everything goes well. I just gave him a hug.”
Junior Lourawls Nairn, the leader of the team, talked about how he and Harris have been tight since Harris decided he was transferring to Michigan State before the 2014-15 season.
“My freshman year nobody was a bigger fan of me than he was,” Nairn said. “People go through tings every day and I believe those things happen and we’ve got to take it to a different level. We’ve got to pick him up. This is a hard pill to swallow. Another senior, a great team guy in the last stretch of his senior year. It’s just tough, man.
“I just wish I could take the injury for him.”
Harris entered the game averaging 11.1 points a game while shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range. He’s struggled with consistency in Big Ten play but was still playing 23.3 minutes a game. Replacing that will continue Michigan State’s juggling act with the rotation, something that has been ongoing.
“I’ve been hard on Eron and I’ve been good with Eron,” Izzo said. “But I couldn’t ask for more than he’s given me in the last month.”
Johns at Purdue
Forward Brandon Johns of East Lansing was at the Michigan State-Purdue game for an unofficial visit, according to GoldandBlack.com.
The 6-foot-7 junior wing player is the 42nd-ranked player in the nation for 2018, according to 247sports.com, and holds scholarship offers from both Michigan State and Purdue, as well as a handful of other Big Ten teams.
Johns is one of the Spartans’ top recruiting targets for 2018, a class that already includes four-star forward Thomas Kithier of Macomb Dakota and three-star guard Foster Loyer of Clarkston.
Turnovers continues to plague the Spartans. They gave the ball up 15 times against the Boilermakers, who scored 14 points off the giveaways.
Over the last four games Michigan State is averaging 18.2 turnovers, and for the first part of the first half on Saturday it wasn’t a problem. That all came to an end late in the half as five giveaways in the last five minutes led to a more than 3-minute scoring drought as Purdue started to pull away.
“We had a couple offensive fouls again,” Izzo said, “but we had some casual plays I thought turning the ball over. You can’t do that on the road and you can’t do that against good teams.”
Miles Bridges had four turnovers while Cassius Winston had three.
“It definitely hurts us in the long run, especially teams converting off our turnovers,” Winston said. “We just gotta fix it, gotta change it.”
For the second time in four games Michigan State allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better from the field as Purdue was 27-for-53 (.509). One reason was the size advantage that was made more difficult when the Boilermakers hit five of their first nine attempts from 3-point range.
“You’re not gonna stop Purdue,” Izzo said. “I thought we did a better job at times in the second half, but they shoot 50 percent against us because they pounded the ball inside and after giving up all those 3s the first half it’s kind of what we chose to do.”
… Michigan State outrebounded its opponent for the fourth straight game, grabbing 32 to Purdue’s 31. That was a big change from the first meeting when the Boilermakers dominated the glass, winning the rebound margin, 36-23.