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Michigan State's Kenny Goins perseveres through elbow pain to put pin in win over Wisconsin

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State's Kenny Goins (25) blocks a shot by Wisconsin's Ethan Happ (22) during the second half.

Madison, Wis. — Kenny Goins didn’t have any real expectations on how much he would play Tuesday night when No. 11 Michigan State traveled to take on No. 20 Wisconsin.

The fifth-year senior had been limited in practice ever since injuring his left elbow in Michigan State’s victory over Minnesota on Saturday, an injury that was feared resulted in a broken bone but, after X-rays, revealed Goins and the Spartans dodged a bullet.

However, the arm was still sore, which made Goins’ availability for a big matchup with the Badgers a bit of a question mark.

By the end of Michigan State’s 67-59 victory, it was clear Goins wasn’t about to let the injury limit him as he started and scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just less than 35 minutes of action.

“I don’t think I was surprised (to play that much),” Goins said. “I didn’t have any expectations coming in. Whenever I get put in I’m sent in there to do my job and that call was pretty big tonight, so I was just in there doing my job.”

He was doing the job he’s done all season — grabbing rebounds, defending and being a calming influence as Michigan State won its sixth Big Ten road game.

Even when he wasn’t perfect, he made up for it.

With Michigan State leading by three points with 1:16 to play in the game, Goins had his inbounds pass stolen. However, the Spartans got a defensive stop and on their next possession, Goins hit a deep 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire to effectively put the game away.

“It was kind of broken play at that point,” Goins said. “Aaron Henry called an iso and I didn’t think I’d ever see the day. But called an iso and so, those are the easier threes to shoot at the end of the shot clock.”

Goins said the elbow didn’t bother him much, even when it got banged hard in the second half. It limited him some in practice the last two days as Goins was held out of most live action.

But, as he has at other points in his career, Goins played through the pain.

“Kenny played with a lot of grit,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

And with Goins likely to be fine the rest of the way, the Spartans feel a lot better about building off the last two victories.

“Just wining at Wisconsin is never easy,” Goins said. “To get out of here with the dub (win) and hopefully continue the streak going into our next home game.”

Oh Henry

At times this season, freshman Aaron Henry has been a difference-maker in games. He had five big points late in a win over Nebraska and scored a career-high 12 in a victory over Maryland.

But in the last few games, the first-year player has looked hesitant offensively. That changed on Tuesday in the win over Wisconsin and Henry scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds. And with the game on the line, he wasn’t afraid.

He misfired on a 3-pointer with less than four minutes to play but shook it off and hit a jumper in the lane to give Michigan State a 59-56 lead with 2:30 to play. It was a lead the Spartans did not relinquish.

“I thought the first half he was OK then the second half he definitely was pretty good and rebounded a little better,” Izzo said. “He took a three, he can shoot at three but he’s not a great 3-point shooter. I just said get them into 15 (feet) and he did that and give him credit. He did what he was supposed to.”

Slam dunks

Junior guard Kyle Ahrens has been battling a bad back for most of the Big Ten season and it kept him out of the final 10 minutes of the game. He took a hard fall on a layup in the first half, but after sitting for a while in the second, the back tightened up and Izzo decided not to push it.

“Once he sat for a while he really couldn’t go,” Izzo said. “He took that bad fall under the basket. I don’t know if that means a couple more days (of rest) now. We’re still a M*A*S*H unit but a M*A*S*H unit that won a game.”

… Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ scored 20 points to give him 2,000 for his career as he became the fourth player in the Big Ten to ever hit that mark and grab 1,000 rebounds. Happ, who now has 1,138 rebounds for his career, is also the first conference player to accomplish that in more than 35 years.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau