Dawson gets back to playing like himself

Michigan State junior forward responds to Izzo's challenge to return to form and keys a big stretch in the Spartans' 71-66 win against Indiana on Tuesday night.

It had been four games since Branden Dawson had registered double-digit points.

That was the first time Michigan State played Indiana, so it was fitting that the junior got back to scoring more than 10 points in the second meeting with the Hoosiers on Tuesday.

Coach Tom Izzo challenged the forward to get back to playing like himself the day before the game and he took a step in the right direction – even if most of it centered on a key two-minute stretch in the second half.

"He was okay," coach Tom Izzo said, "but that stretch and even the players in the huddle, ‘That's the Branden Dawson.' Denzel, ‘That's the Branden Dawson.' Tom Izzo, ‘That's the Branden Dawson.' He did step up, he was okay.

"I think he has a lot more to give, maybe we will get it out of him now. He's getting better."

The two minutes featured Dawson setting the tone for a Michigan State team that was mostly flat in its 71-66 win against Indiana. He had a three-point play, an assist in transition to set up another three-point play and a tip-in on three consecutive possessions.

Dawson said the focus on bringing energy to the team started with a meeting with Izzo on Monday.

"He just showed me some film where I wasn't really going hard or playing hard and I just told him tonight I was going to bring it," he said. "My teammates helped me out. Coach just said he wanted to see me being the old me."

Without forward Adreian Payne in the lineup for the fourth straight game, Dawson put more on himself to step up.

"Coach kept going to me," he said. "He told guys, ‘Hey, give it to BJ in the post' and told me to keep being aggressive, so that's what I did."

It becomes a focus for Dawson to keep improving on that energy and aggressiveness – something that continues to frustrate Izzo.

"He made a couple of steals, he got the rebound where it led out to the fast break by Valentine for a the three-point play," Izzo said. "Got his own three-point play and we think we can post him all night, but he doesn't.

"Maybe this will make him understand."

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