Sophomore Alvin Ellis, junior Bryn Forbes and freshman Javon Bess took turns starting alongside senior Travis Trice. Nothing seemed to work quite as intended and now, Izzo opted instead to bring Trice off the bench and start freshman Tum Tum Nairn.
The bold choice has paid off as Michigan State has won three straight games – and Nairn has hit his 3-pointers in back-to-back games. The change gives Izzo the shooter off the bench he desires and takes some pressure off Trice.
”Travis is still very, very valuable and important to us,” Izzo said. “He’s getting better actually at the point, but not having as many minutes on him at that position or in the game, it’s easier to run a team. …
”He doesn’t have to do as much. That’s what takes some pressure off. He can do his role, play his role and guys kinda know what he’s gonna do and that’s been good for us.”
The switch allows for varied lineups, as well. Nairn is a true point guard in every sense – a player to run the offense and distribute the ball. While Trice has shown he can do that, he is equally comfortable scoring. So Trice has been playing at the one and the two, giving MSU different looks.
”I think we mesh really well,” Nairn said. “When he gets out transition and makes the plays he was making, knocking down shots like that … I think we are a really good team like that.”
And Michigan State has been a good team the past three games, with Trice coming in as a shooter and Nairn showing he can score a little more than he had previously. The fast break that this MSU team has relied on for success has only grown with Nairn as well – and is stronger yet with both Nairn and Trice on the floor.
“Now, you’ve got two guys that can really attack and kick it out,” Trice said. “Two guys that are looking to pass. It’s a different look and it starts the break a lot faster.
”You’ve got two outlets and if one of us gets the rebound, we are pushing it, so I think it speeds up the fast break.”
“When we run, to me, we are a deadly team,” he said. “If we continue to run, it’s part of our game. We just gotta continue to do that and continue to get better.”
And with the pair of point guards at Izzo’s disposal and a backcourt lineup set, that figures to be the case.