Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 12/8/12
EAST LANSING, Mich. There is an adjustment period not only for freshmen, but for the men who coach them. They must learn which buttons to push when to kick them in the behind and when to pat them there. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo received some good advice on that before Saturdays game in a text message from Sean Bledsoe, who was freshman guard Gary Harris AAU coach in Indianapolis. Izzo relayed that message: Hes got to be pushed more. And so Izzo, who does not need much encouragement in becoming forceful, decided to challenge Harris before the 73-61 win over Loyola University Chicago. Harris got the message. Though, it took him one half to truly light up the scoreboard. He helped the Spartans erase a two-point half-time deficit by scoring 14 of his season-high 20 points after intermission, and hit three consecutive three-pointers in rapid-fire succession over a span of 86 seconds. He did get on me more, Harris said with a smile. He said I had to come out and move at the beginning. Harris, who said he also felt free by taking off the shoulder brace hed been wearing since spraining it nearly three weeks ago against Boise State, finally did shake loose with good perimeter movement. He was able to capitalize on getting kick-outs initiated by center Derrick Nix, whose passes were prompted by Ramblers double-teams. Its very important, Harris said of Nixs passing. He got only one assist, but he created a lot of movement. Im just out there doing whatever I have to to win. Our bigs also did a good job of screening and getting me shots. Izzo added: If Nix was a hockey guy, hed have a lot of assists. But he made the pass that led to the pass that led to the basket, so he only had one assist. He made some big second assists that helped a lot. With leading scorer Keith Appling in foul trouble along with his point guard backup, Travis Trice, the bulk of the guard scoring load fell to Harris, and the McDonalds All-America and Indiana Mr. Basketball is comfortable with that. He scored 18 against Kansas and 19 on Texas Southern in his second and third games before the painful injury that caused him to miss two games. Harris scored 12, 11 and 13 in the three games since returning. But there wasnt a bust-out game until Saturday. I dont know if he realizes it yet because he is an unselfish kid, Izzo said. He took the brace off today which Im not sure if I like. I might be fist-fighting the doctor tonight. But I think it is more mental than it is physical. Harris said he bounced the idea off Spartans trainer Quinton Sawyer before the game and decided to take off the brace. I just feel more free without the brace, Harris said. I just have to be careful so it wont fall out again. I will wear it in practice. I just feel more free without it. If Harris shoulder were to fall out again, the Spartans would be half the team they are with him. Having Appling (14.6 points) and Harris drilling shots from the perimeter are essential to a team without a potent inside scoring threat against top competition. Harris showed up three hours before tip-off to drain long-distance shots without the brace. I wanted to see shots go down on the main floor so I am ready to play, Harris said. We have to make shots if they are doubling in the post. Harris averaged 25.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.1 assists as a senior at Hamilton Southeastern in Fishers, Ind. He has a chance to be a great player, Izzo said, and tonight I thought he started to get his feet ready. People are starting to get a feel for one another. Which brings us back to Bledsoes suggestion that Izzo push Harris harder. Bledsoe coached Harris on the D3 Dorians Pride, and was current Spartans assistant coach Mike Garlands assistant when Garland was the head coach at Cleveland State. Harris, asked if Bledsoe or Izzo was tougher on him, made the wise and only decision by stating it was Izzo. The student is learning, just like the coach. Halftime honor Spartans tailback LeVeon Bell, who rushed 350 times for 1,648 yards, at halftime was presented the Elite Running Back Trophy from the College Football Performance Awards in Charlotte, N.C. Fans chanted One MORE year! and Bell said it became quite emotional. He is considering whether to enter the NFL draft after the Dec. 29 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game with Texas Christian.
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