Hauser making progress in confidence, consistency for Michigan State
For most players, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds would be a decent game, though nothing to get too excited about.
But when you’re Joey Hauser, a player loaded with talent who has spent the better part of the last year desperately looking for consistency and positive vibes, it’s perhaps a sign that a corner is being turned.
Whether that’s what took place Wednesday when No. 19 Michigan State went on the road to beat Minnesota in its Big Ten opener remains to be seen. But after plenty of struggles to open the season, it was at least a step in the right direction for the senior forward.
“This was Joey’s best all-around game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I’m really happy for him. He’s been through hell, like happens to some players. But he is bouncing back. He’s hung in there.
“A lot of people wonder why I believe in him but he’s a hell of a kid and he works his tail off. Him and Malik (Hall) together are really a great one-two punch right now. That position is really well-manned.”
Hall has proven to be one of Michigan State’s most reliable players with the ability to score inside and out while serving as a versatile defender for one of the top defensive teams in the country. Hauser, on the other hand, has been fighting to have a similar impact.
The struggles began last season after Hauser, who sat out the previous season after transferring from Marquette, scored a career-high 27 during a Christmas Day loss at home to Wisconsin. From there, things started to head in the wrong direction, beginning with six points on a 1-for-8 shooting night at Minnesota.
It was more of the same the rest of the season as Hauser’s minutes dwindled and his shooting percentage dipped.
This season has been a fresh start.
“Just having fun with basketball,” Hauser said before the season during Michigan State’s media day. “Last year was tough on everybody, myself included. So just trying to have fun and enjoy the game, and that’s the biggest change, really.”
Through the first nine games, there hadn’t been a whole lot of fun for Hauser. He scored 12 in the win over Western Michigan, but more often, Hauser was missing shots and turning the ball over.
Even during the Spartans’ solid start, Hauser was taking plenty of heat from frustrated fans as he was 5-for-20 from 3-point range entering last Saturday’s home game against Toledo and had turned the ball over 13 times.
But against Toledo, there were signs of progress. Hauser only scored five points, but he grabbed six rebounds and had just one turnover. That led to Wednesday night at Minnesota when Hauser was 2-for-3 from 3-point range, scored 10 and grabbed seven rebounds while playing solid defense, helping limit Jamison Battle, one of the Gophers’ top scorers, to 5-of-14 shooting.
“We tried putting him on Battle and he did a hell of a job,” Izzo said. “I thought Joey did a hell of a job on him, which surprised me a little bit. Battle hit some shots at the end but not at the end but not on Joey.
“(Battle) gets 17, but they were a well-earned 17. I thought Malik Hall and Joey Hauser really did a good job on Battle.”
The key for Hauser as Michigan State (8-2, 1-0 Big Ten) prepares to host Penn State (5-4, 0-1) at 2 p.m. on Saturday is keeping the momentum, building the confidence in his shot while continuing to be an effective defender and getting on the glass.
“Joey's been practicing his butt off and grading out really well,” Izzo said. “Joey is Joey, but I do think he's making some really big progress. I thought (Wednesday) night the job he did defending and rebounding kind of gets overlooked by some people. But he hit some shots, and that’s what I expect from him. As I’ve told you, sooner or later we’ll get all our shooters shooting, and I still believe that.”
Penn State at No. 19 Michigan State
►Tip-off: 2 p.m., Saturday, Breslin Center, East Lansing
►TV/radio: Big Ten Network/WJR 760
►Records: Penn State 5-4, 0-1 Big Ten; Michigan State 8-2, 1-0
►Outlook: Micah Shrewsberry, who was previously an assistant at Purdue and Butler, as well as with the Boston Celtics, is in his first season as Penn State’s coach. … There are plenty of familiar faces on the Nittany Lions roster, led junior F Seth Lundy (14.3 ppg) and senior F John Harrar (10.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg). … Michigan State is 25-2 against Penn State in games played at the Breslin Center and has won nine of the last 10 at home.