MSU's Matt McQuaid finally 'puts it all together'

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Tom Izzo insists he knew the real Matt McQuaid was in there somewhere, it was just a matter of time before he showed.

And now, after breaking out with a season-high 15 points in Sunday’s win over Wisconsin, the key for the sophomore guard will be finding a way to string together a few good games, especially with the Spartans entering the final week of the regular season.

“People ask if I could see that coming and, yeah, I really could,” Izzo said on Monday. “He has been practicing better and he works so hard on his game and spends so much time that you knew sooner or later (it would come).”

It seems to be coming at the perfect time for Michigan State (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten). With road games left against Illinois on Wednesday and Maryland on Saturday, the Spartans have found themselves in a tie for third place in the Big Ten with a remote chance at gaining a share of the conference title.

And given the fact senior guard Eron Harris is now out for the season with a knee injury, it is vital Michigan State gets more out of more players.

Enter McQuaid, the player who early last season excited fans with some big moments in big games but was hindered in the offseason by double-hernia surgery that shelved him for months.

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“It felt good to see those shots go in, but I’ve just got to be consistent and build off of it now,” McQuaid said. “Losing Eron was a big deal. You can’t replace him with one person. A lot of people have got to step up … I’m just trying to be more aggressive, just trying to put it all together.”

Expectations were high for McQuaid entering the season after he showed flashes early on as a freshman. There was the win over Kansas in the Champions Classic when he was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and had a big block late in the game. And there was a 17-point game against Northwestern in Big Ten play as he finished the season shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range.

However, he also spent a big part of the season playing out of position as the backup point guard, and it hindered his development. That got even worse with the offseason of inactivity. It’s something Izzo has brought up repeatedly and isn’t backing away from now that it appears to be coming together for McQuaid.

“I’m gonna use the six months off that he had because I just don’t think a shooter cannot not get better in the summer,” Izzo said. “And then when your confidence goes, it’s double damage. It goes because you didn’t do anything for six, seven months. And I think that to his credit, and I say this every press conference, he has been disappointed but he keeps working at it.”

McQuaid is a shooter by trade, but his confidence has been an issue and he’s making just 33.7 percent of his 3-pointers this season. On Sunday, he got rolling by attacking the basket. He hit one triple but it was his drives to the basket that were the difference and it’s one way for a shooter to regain that confidence.

“It adds another part, but I had some great lanes my teammates opened up and it made it easier on me to get to the rim,” McQuaid said.