Michigan State's Rocket Watts falls ill, awaits COVID test results

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — For the second straight week, Michigan State had to pull a player during a game and is now waiting on COVID-19 test results.

Sophomore Rocket Watts never came out of the locker room at the end of halftime Saturday in Michigan State’s 88-58 loss to No. 15 Iowa at the Breslin Center, and he is now in isolation after feeling ill during the first half.

Michigan State's Gabe Brown finished with 15 points in Saturday's loss.

“Rocket was sick a little bit, he just felt like his stomach,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said “Then at halftime, he got real sick, so they did the same thing they did with (Thomas) Kithier, they rushed him off and he'll go through all the protocol.”

Kithier had a similar experience last weekend during Michigan State’s victory at home over Nebraska on Feb. 6. He felt ill during the first half and was quickly placed in isolation but was back at practice by the following Monday when multiple antigen and PCR tests came back negative. He played Tuesday against Penn State and again on Saturday against Iowa.

Izzo said Watts, who played 10 minutes in the first half and scored three points on 1-for-5 shooting, tested negative for COVID during the daily antigen testing on Saturday morning.

“I don't know,” Izzo said. “It also could be the flu or something, but we'll probably find out at some point (Sunday). But we’ll still have to keep him out a couple days because whatever the protocol is, and we'll do the same thing we did with Kithier. It’s just another situation that we'll deal with.”

Michigan State had four games postponed in January after an outbreak of COVID cases knocked out five players and at least two members of the coaching staff, including Mady Sissoko, Steven Izzo, Joshua Langford, Davis Smith and Gabe Brown as well as associate head coach Dane Fife.

Brown and Fife returned last Saturday, the same night Kithier was taken out of the game.

As of Saturday, 13 of Michigan State’s 15 players have tested positive from the time they arrived on campus in late summer.

Brown is sound

Brown had his best game since returning to the lineup, scoring a team-high 15 points, the first time he reached double-figures since Jan. 2 vs. Nebraska.

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The loss was the first time Michigan State has lost a game this season when Brown reaches double figures.

“It just showed I want to do the little things, I want to do anything I can do to help this team win,” said Brown, who was 3-for-5 from 3-point range. “I go as hard as I possibly can. I just want to go out there, play hard and just win. That's the main thing at the end of the day. I feel like today I was just getting back to the flow again.”

Slam dunks

Iowa’s 30-point win is its largest margin of victory ever in games played in East Lansing. It’s best had been an 18-point win (75-57) in 1983.

… The Hawkeyes posted just their second regular-season sweep over Michigan State since the 1993-94 season, the last coming in 2015-16. Saturday’s win was just Iowa’s second in its last 23 games in East Lansing.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau