By Adam Biggers/@AdamBiggers81
Following the departures of Keith Appling and Gary Harris, Michigan State found itself in need of a knock-down shooter and capable defender. Replacing Appling’s defense and Harris’ scoring wouldn’t be easy, but Tom Izzo found Bryn Forbes, a transfer from Cleveland State, to adopt the open jobs.
So far, so good.
Despite averaging just 8.7 points per game, Forbes adds a certain element of surprise to the Spartans, who have relied heavily upon perimeter shooting during their march to the Final Four.
He hasn’t been unstoppable during the tournament, but his 14 points and late three-pointer in regulation were major factors during Michigan State’s 76-70 overtime win over Louisville in the Elite Eight.
That was the high point. He scored just three versus Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 and seven versus Virginia in the Round of 32. However, prior to that, he dumped 14 on Georgia in the tourney opener.
But timing, not necessarily quantity or frequency, is his best quality. Big threes, crucial free-throws; he's done it all for Izzo. He’s a sparkplug—and he loves it.
“That’s a great thing,” said Forbes, who shoots .435 from long range and .808 from the line. “It was a hard role for me to move into at first, you know, coming off the bench. But I think now that I’ve embraced it and it makes the game a little more fun.
And now that you’re ready to come off the bench, you know what’s going to happen and you know what you can do off the bench.”
Michigan State will need everything it can get from Forbes on Saturday night. Personnel-wise, Izzo’s team faces a Duke lineup ripe with talent, including the frosh trio of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. They’re all great players, says Forbes, but the Spartans have gone through a series of tests this season.
They’re prepared to push and shove with anyone.
“I don’t think I’m too worried about the matchups right now,” Forbes said. “We’ve had other matchups like Montrezl Harrell [of Louisville]. We’ve have gone against other extremely good players but I think we’re ready to go to war at all times. So I’m not really worried about anybody specifically because I know we’re all going to go at it—we’re helping each other.”
Without the leadership of seniors Branden Dawson, Travis Trice and Keenan Wetzel to keep the team glued, Michigan State’s season would have likely gone awry back in late January and early February. At one time, the Spartans appeared to be a bubble team. Yet, somehow, they've won 12 of their past 15 games.
On Selection Sunday, they were barely considered among the top 30 teams in college hoops.
Today, thanks to senior experience and intuition, they’re a win away from playing for a national title.
“We feel like we owe those guys,” Forbes said. “They did four hard years here. It’s never easy, especially with a coach that’s going to push you to your limits. We feel like, I don’t know if I’d say we owe them, but I feel like they deserve more (points to banners hanging above the court).
“I don’t think we should be done—not even close. I don’t think the Final Four is good enough. I think they need to leave with something bigger—bigger than just one banner.”
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