Surefire Matt McQuaid's critical 3 aids MSU cause

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

New York —With the game on the line in the final minutes on Friday, Michigan State likely didn’t have a play drawn up to get Matt McQuaid a 3-pointer.

But, as top-seeded Michigan State found itself up two points on Wisconsin with less than two minutes to play in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden, that’s exactly what presented itself.

And much like he did earlier this season in a victory at Indiana, McQuaid stepped into the shot from the wing and nailed it, helping the Spartans secure a 63-60 victory and advance to Saturday’s semifinals where it will take on rival Michigan.

“That’s huge,” said guard Cassius Winston, who drove the lane then kicked the ball out to McQuaid “He shot it with a lot of confidence and it was a deep one, too. He stepped in there. Big-shot Quaido, that’s what we call him, so we all had a lot of confidence in that shot and he had a lot of confidence. You saw the result.”

The result keeps the Spartans (29-3) alive in the conference tournament thanks to a big play from a guy who spent most of the game hounding Wisconsin’s Brad Davison. The Badgers’ freshman, who scored a career-high 30 in the last meeting between the teams, was just 4-for-14 shooting as McQuaid and Joshua Langford took turns checking him.

It was that defense that impressed Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

“Hit that one and hit that big layup and he got a couple of great offensive rebounds,” Izzo said. “I thought, in all honesty, Matt and Josh played extremely well defensively, yet we couldn't get either one of them to buy a shot. They did a pretty good job on Davison and (Brevin) Pritzl. Between those two they were, what, 5-for-21, and those two had a lot to do with it.

“But there's no question that for the kid who hadn't been shooting very much tonight to knock down that big three, we needed it and he needed it. I think it will help us down the stretch.”

Consistent production hasn’t been McQuaid’s calling card, but he’s had his share of big moments. He scored a career-high 20 points in a win over DePaul when he started for the injured Miles Bridges and he nailed four 3-pointers at Indiana, the last coming in the final minutes to seal that win. He also made three triples in the victory over Purdue.

But the junior said he was just doing his job while already looking to what the Spartans need to do moving forward.

“It’s just always staying ready,” McQuaid said. “My teammates are constantly giving me confidence, my coaches are constantly giving me confidence. So, I listen to that and keep playing my game.

“I don’t think we played that good. We got outhustled a little so we’ve got a lot of little things to fix, too.”

Keeping his word

Earlier this week, Izzo told reporters he and his players were done answering any questions about off-court issues, including the recent report of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball that led to Miles Bridges being forced to pay $40 to a charity and have to go through a quick reinstatement from the NCAA.

In the postgame news conference, a reporter asked Bridges if he was surprised to see his name in the report. True to his word, Izzo interjected before Bridges could respond.

“I'm sorry, we're not talking about any of that stuff,” Izzo said. “I made that perfectly clear. And I apologize, I don't blame you for asking, but we've got enough to do.”

Slam dunks

Bridges scored 20 points in the victory over Wisconsin, giving him 998 in his Michigan State career. Two more points will make him the 49th player in Michigan State history to reach the 1,000-point mark.

In 59 career games, Bridges is averaging 16.9 points a game. He has 525 points this season in 31 games for an average of 16.9 points.

… Michigan State is 8-2 when seeded No. 1 in the Big Ten tournament.

… The Spartans improved to 5-4 against Wisconsin in the conference tournament, the most games it has played against any Big Ten team.