Izzo wants more production from Harris, Goins
East Lansing — Tom Izzo didn’t mince words on Sunday night minutes after Michigan State lost at home to Northeastern.
If his team is to get things headed in the right direction with Big Ten play beginning in less than a week, he’ll need more out of senior guard Eron Harris and sophomore forward Kenny Goins.
“Right now we’re struggling with a couple guys that I think have to play well for us to win, Eron and Kenny,” Izzo said. “We’re just not getting enough out of them, especially Kenny.”
Both Harris and Goins have been counted on to provide plenty for the Spartans this season and both have struggled to do so on a consistent basis.
For Harris, it’s been a tough transition from complimentary piece to primary scorer, something he’s absolutely been expected to be since freshman Miles Bridges left the lineup four games ago with an ankle injury.
Entering Wednesday’s game at the Breslin Center against Oakland, Harris was still stinging after sitting out the crucial final minutes against Northeastern. He understood why, having made just 4-of-11 shots and struggling defensively.
And he’s accepted Izzo’s challenge.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to get on my teammates and have my teammates get on me. I definitely have to play better and that’s what we’re working on right now, getting film work, getting in the gym and staying in the gym.”
That work could pay off at the right time for Harris, who scored 27 in last year’s meeting with Oakland and was looking to match that performance Wednesday.
For Goins, it’s not so much about the points he can score, it’s about being sound on both ends of the floor. In one key stretch against Northeastern, Goins missed a dunk on a perfect lob pass then allowed an easy layup at the other end on the next possession.
It’s been difficult for Goins to provide that consistency this season as has he been asked to take on a much bigger role because of injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter while switching to center.
“I just have to adjust and get my mind right about it, getting my mind in basketball mode,” Goins said. “We’ve talked and we know we need to take a big step forward the next couple of weeks, especially going into Big Ten season. We just need to play better to be successful.”
Izzo is confident that jump will happen, and last year’s meeting with Oakland gives him that belief.
“Watching that game last year, Kenny played 90 percent of the second half. We played (Deyonta Davis) about four minutes. (Matt) Costello didn’t play very good. Kenny played real good and Eron had 20-something. It would be different if it was freshmen and you don’t know what you’re getting. But they’ve done it before. I think that can be rectified a lot quicker just because they been there and done it before.”
No place like home
Goins, a Troy native who played at Warren Mott High before coming to Michigan State as a preferred walk-on, enjoys playing against Oakland more than most after growing up near the Rochester Hills campus.
“I’m 15 minutes from campus and that’s where most of my buddies from high school went,” Goins said. “It’s always close to home.”
Goins said when the teams played last season at The Palace in Auburn Hills, he had plenty of supporters in the stands. He wasn’t counting on that on Wednesday.
Weary Golden Grizzlies
Oakland entered the game having played at home Tuesday in a 61-59 loss to Northeastern. It mimicked more of a tournament setting for the Golden Grizzlies, but Izzo wasn’t expecting a big advantage.
“You never know this time of year,” Izzo said. “I thought we would be poor against Wichita State (at the Battle 4 Atlantis) and we played maybe one of our best games back-to-back-to-back, so it’s hard to say.
“I’m still more worried about us and what we do. The breakdowns we have a times are partially the different lineups and partially a poor job on my part getting the right people in there. We’ll try and correct some of those things and find a way to win this one and move on to Christmas.”