January 26, 2012

Dawson has back-to-back big games

EAST LANSING - It is too early to tell if 6-foot-6, 220-pound freshman Branden Dawson has truly learned how to compete with the effort and energy that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo demands on both ends of the floor from each player in his program.

But during back-to-back victories over Purdue and Minnesota it appears that the former McDonald's All-American is making progress in that regard.

With just under 10 minutes remaining in the second half of Michigan State's 68-52 win over Minnesota Dawson's hustle on transition defense was rewarded with a steal and a trip to the foul line after Golden Gopher freshman Joe Coleman was whistled for an intentional foul.

Dawson made just one of his two free-throw attempts after Coleman's foul. But that made free throw was the first point in a 5-0 Michigan State run that helped the Spartans to regain a double-digit lead after the Golden Gophers had cut their deficit to just five points.

"That was huge," said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. "It happens in the game. Any time you come from the behind it's a tough call, it's a tough play. He plays with such heart, with such toughness. Joe is a freshman and he'll get better at it. We did some good things tonight, just didn't finish the right way."

The significance of Dawson's steal was not lost on Izzo.

"I do," answered the Spartan head coach when asked if Dawson's steal and the intentional foul that followed was the turning point in a competitive game. "It is ironic that it was the guy that we were talking about the most about learning how to guard somebody made a big play. That was awesome."

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