Summers makes Izzo's confidence pay off
November, 24, 2010
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com
LAHAINA, Maui -- Durrell Summers was struggling. For three straight games, his jumper couldn't find the Pacific Ocean.
"I was disappointed in Durrell," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I didn't think he played well."
But with the game on the line and the Spartans looking like they might head back to the mainland with two straight losses -- this one at the hands of Washington -- Summers came through with two big 3s in the clutch, helping MSU beat the Huskies 76-71 for a third-place finish at the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Summers' first big 3 couldn't have happened at a more opportune time. The Spartans were down by two points with 2:02 left in the game. Point guard Kalin Lucas, who had been dominant in the game, was on the bench nursing a sore knee, suffered on the previous possession.
Izzo drew up a play for Summers, who was shooting just 1-for-9 from the field in the game and had missed his last six from long range. Summers curled off a screen and hit the shot to put Michigan State up by one. He nailed another 3 at the 1:15 mark to put the Spartans up 72-68 -- a margin that the Huskies could not close.
"Pretty much the whole tournament I was struggling with my shot," Summers said after the game. "Coach was still running plays for me and confident in me shooting the ball. I came off it. I told him in the huddle I thought I'd be open just like I was on the other plays. It was down in the crunch time. I just had the confidence to hit the shot. I know it may seem pretty crazy because I've been off on my shot the last two or three games, but it just shows that type of confidence he had in me because I've done it before."
AP Photo/Eugene TannerDurrell Summers struggled all game ... until his team needed him the most.
Summers was an unlikely hero for the Spartans. After Tuesday's loss to UConn, Izzo declared that Lucas and junior Draymond Green were his two best players -- noticeably leaving out Summers in the shout-out.
But Izzo said Summers' hard work earned him the right to take the critical shot.
"The difference between this year and last year is that he's working his tail off," Izzo said. "He's worked as hard as humanly possible this summer. I thought he was down And I don't blame him. I thought it was easier to go to him because I believe in what he's done. He's earned that if he's 1-for-9, I still go to him. I'm happy for Durrell because he struggled in the game."
For most of the game, it was Lucas and Green carrying the team. Lucas had 29 points and was 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Green had 12 points and six rebounds for the Spartans.
"It was a strange game to me," Izzo said. "We felt that Washington might be the best team in the tournament. ... The second half we executed a lot better and we competed a lot better. Thank God Kalin Lucas was hitting shots. We said it was going to be a character game. It was a character win for us."
For the Huskies, this is another difficult loss. After blowing out Virginia in the opening round, they struggled to hit a jump shot against Kentucky in Tuesday's loss. Against MSU, the Huskies were shooting the ball well from the field and led by 10 points at the half. But the team missed 10 free throws and kept turning the ball over in the second half.
"We came in here with high expectations and we leave 1-2," UW head coach Lorenzo Romar said. "But overall I'm happy with my team. We have some things to work on, but they're correctable."
What did Romar learn about his team in this tournament? "I think we improved dramatically from yesterday on being patient on the offensive end. I think we can play defense. I think it was good to see some people step up and play well."
Izzo had high praise for a number of teams in the tournament.
"Make no mistake about it. There are three teams, that are as good as any we'll face all year," he said. "Washington is one of those. Kentucky is one of those. And I really think UConn and even Wichita State could be one of those. We'll leave here a better team than we came, but there's a lot of improvement left."