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Sport Couch: MSU's basketball team is going nowhere until it gets Aaron Henry right

23:10  04 december  2019
23:10  04 december  2019 Source:   lansingstatejournal.com

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MSU badly needs a second scorer right now . Someone other than Cassius Winston it can count on to get a bucket and create some offense. RELATED: Couch : MSU ' s basketball team is going nowhere until it gets Aaron Henry right .

Couch : Aaron Henry is Michigan State ' s impact freshman, among an enticing incoming class. In a summer league of MSU players, overseas pros and former local stars, Henry sticks out. He plays out of position sometimes, handles the ball , cherry picks instead of getting back on defense, hangs on

EAST LANSING – Aaron Henry is becoming an enigma.

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Those two are going to keep MSU from dropping games it shouldn’t at home. “ Right now we’ve got a center who’ s playing about as good as basketball as he’ s played since he’ s been At some point, Julius Marble is going to be a bear defensively in the Big Ten. He’ s already a physical presence, a

— Aaron Henry says he was a decent underclassman basketball player in high school. Pretty good, certainly not great. Henry wasn’t on the varsity team as a freshman at Ben Davis High School, a massive 3,000-student public school in Indianapolis. He played a bit on the freshman team , a bit on

He was visibly upset at times during Michigan State’s 87-75 loss to Duke. And MSU coach Tom Izzo was visibly upset with him. Izzo benched his sophomore wing for a good chunk of the night and then couldn’t explain Henry’s performance, which included two shots in 21 minutes.

So much athletic talent. So much basketball intelligence. Enough skill to be a force. But the edge comes and goes. His resolve disappears. His confidence is far from constant.

Izzo usually doesn’t mince words about players. Tuesday, he just didn’t have any left to give about Henry.

“I don’t know,” Izzo said. “Aaron, I don’t, I really don’t. Next question.”

Henry didn’t take any questions in the locker room afterwards, which is unlike him. Izzo’s been on him hard. But that’s nothing new. There’s pressure on him to perform, to be a featured guy this season. That is new. When he struggles, MSU has no shot against strong competition. That’s new, too. Perhaps he’s not ready for this. MSU collectively wasn’t ready for Duke. Henry was as much a culprit as any for the way it all went down Tuesday night at Breslin Center.

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Michigan State ' s Aaron Henry talks with members of the media in the locker room on closed practice day It was the rant that reverberated across college basketball , as the image of a red-faced Tom I hope to get yelled at more, not that I’m messing up, but just to keep going .” Henry didn’t lash back

Stephen A. Smith gets fired up that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is being criticized for yelling at Aaron Henry during the Spartans' win vs. the

a group of people sitting in front of a crowd: From left, Michigan State's Aaron Henry, Cassius Winston, Thomas Kithier and Marcus Bingham Jr. look on from the bench during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Spartans lost to the Blue Devils 87-75.© Nick King/Lansing State Journal From left, Michigan State's Aaron Henry, Cassius Winston, Thomas Kithier and Marcus Bingham Jr. look on from the bench during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Spartans lost to the Blue Devils 87-75.

“If you want to keep it blunt, you’ve just got to play better,” junior center Xavier Tillman said of what he’ll tell Henry. “And he knows it himself. But play better as far as: ‘We just need you. We need you to produce.’ Obviously, defensively, I couldn’t see from his perspective how well he did or not. But offensively, we need him to have those 15-, 16-point nights in order for us to have a fighting chance.”

There were many reasons the Spartans lost this game in lopsided fashion. I wouldn’t call them a soft team. But they played soft against Duke. They’ll have to make sure that doesn’t become a character trait.

“There’s something that you can see in the eyes of a person,” Izzo said. “I saw it in their eyes. I didn’t see it in our eyes.”

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haven't got a bath.•b drawers in your bedroom?c the lamp next to my bed isn't workingd when we have a special meal with visitors.• e to watch TV.. f I can do my homework there. 3 Write sentences using the prompts andthe relative pronouns in brackets.1 This/be/person/l/tell / you about/yesterday ( that )2

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Henry is definitely in that group. He was missing something. He’s been silent before for stretches this season. But never like this. Izzo seemed to reach his breaking point with Henry, whom he benched briefly at the Maui Invitational last week and is desperately trying to push toward his potential.

“I think his ceiling’s off the charts,” Izzo said in Maui. “That's the problem.”

RELATED: Couch: Maui reveals truths about MSU's basketball team, throughout the roster

The problem for MSU is that it won’t get anywhere meaningful this season unless Henry gets as close to that ceiling as his still-developing game will take him. We saw glimpses of that in Maui — late against Virginia Tech, throughout the game against Georgia. Then not against UCLA. And not against Duke.

“This game doesn’t define him,” Cassius Winston said, sometime after midnight. “We’ve got to find a way and tell him he’s in a position now, where consistency is key. ‘You can’t be up and down because you’re one of our reliable pieces. Figure out how to be able to bring it each and every night, which is tough to do, but that’s the position that you’re in.’”

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You can tell Winston and Tillman get it. They know. This season was always largely going to come down to Henry, more so once Joshua Langford’s foot injury reoccured and when transfer Joey Hauser was ruled ineligible.

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Henry can no longer just tip the balance athletically in MSU’s favor as he did a year ago. He has to be a playmaker, a second perimeter scorer. Good defensive teams aren’t going to let Cassius Winston be a one-man band any longer.

“Teams are doing a good job of icing me out and keeping people on me, denying me and things like that,” Winston said, after scoring 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting, with seven assists and two turnovers. “We’ve got to figure out a way to produce some easy ones and get some easy looks.

“We’ve definitely got to figure out a way to get Henny (Henry) more involved. He’s a pretty good scorer, get him some more touches. Rocket (Watts) is getting his feel for things, getting his rhythm. All that’s going to come. Those are two pretty good wing options. We just need to figure a way to get them going. It’s a long season. It’s not the first time we’ve been in these situations. That’s what these games are for.”

If this had been Louisville on the road, like last season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the harsh learning experience would be easier to stomach. But this was Duke. In Breslin for the first time in 16 seasons. On a night Draymond Green’s jersey was retired and a who’s who of Spartan basketball alumni were watching from the stands.

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“I’m embarrassed,” Izzo said.

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This loss, how it happened, will take MSU off the national radar for a bit. That might be best for this team, which could use some time in the lab without the spotlight. This team was a work in progress coming home from Maui. Hiccups were expected against Duke. It’s just no one expected Duke to look like such a finished product and the disparity in toughness, poise and execution to lean so heavily the Blue Devils’ way.

“It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t get everybody’s best shot, because come March we’re going to get everybody’s best shot, whether we win or lose,” Tillman said. “We still hope that every game we’re on the radar, that they want to play Michigan State and want to beat Michigan State. That way, we’ve got to bring it every time, because we’ve got to be ready by March.”

That begins with getting Henry right.

He seemed fine Sunday, when at the end of an interview he chimed in with the final question for Winston.

“Can you start passing me the ball more?” he said playfully to Winston.

Winston will get him the ball. He’s got to want to do something with it.

RELATED: Couch: 3 quick takes on Michigan State's hard fall against Duke

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Contact Graham Couch at gcouch@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Couch: MSU's basketball team is going nowhere until it gets Aaron Henry right

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