Tom Izzo made a simple request of Gary Harris on Saturday.
He asked his freshman NCAA basketball star to be more aggressive in the Big Ten battle against Purdue. Harris obliged, scoring a season-high 22 points and the result was an easy 84-61 Michigan State victory over the Boilermakers.
Harris’ 22 points beat his best of 20 against Loyola. He was playing against his mother Joy’s college team and Harris let it loose by hitting 6-of-8 in 3-point tries.
“I asked Harris to be more aggressive and I thought he played a heck of a game,” Izzo said.
It’s a game that the No. 18 Spartans at 12-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten, obviously couldn’t afford to lose, especially playing at home.
It was close for awhile but Harris delivered at a critical time in helping the hosts on a 28-7 run in the second half to take control of the game.
“He’s such a good kid,” Izzo said. “He tries to understand what he has to do within the offense, and I think he’ll find his niche. But definitely today, when you go 6-8 from the three, that makes a big difference in our team.”
Where Harris can really punish a team is on the transition. Just ask Purdue coach Matt Painter.
“Gary Harris really killed us,” Painter said. “Obviously, hitting six threes, he got into a rhythm and a couple of them we had to break down, and a couple of them just finding each other and making nice passes. You can’t let a guy like that get going.”