Senior Brandon Wood has been around a lot of colleges during his basketball career. His long journey has included playing for Southern Illinois, transferring to a Division II school, transferring to Valparaiso University and finally playing for the Michigan State Spartans.
While at Valparaiso, Wood was the star: He averaged over 17 points during his sophomore year, and 16 his junior year. Wood graduated and decided to test the NBA waters by putting his name in the draft, but after hearing what scouts thought of him, he decided to polish his skills even more at MSU.
Wood has had a good season for MSU—he averages over eight points a game, and while that's less than he did at Valparaiso, there are 10 times the talent on the MSU team, and Wood no longer needs to be the star.
A few weeks ago, Wood's stepbrother was shot in the head. He survived, but it was an emotional strain on Wood. A week later, Wood suffered a shoulder strain. Wood has since lost his starting spot, and is now equipped with a shoulder brace but that isn't stopping him from becoming a force for the Spartans.
Under Tom Izzo and assistant coach Dane Fife, Wood transformed into a defensive-minded guard, something that the Valparaiso coaches would be shocked to see. Wood is rebounding well and shutting down the opposition.
Last night the No. 6 Michigan State Spartans traveled to Minnesota in a key game with the Big Ten championship on the line. Down by as many as nine points with under 10 minutes to play, Wood came off the bench and became the spark that the Spartans needed.
Wood timed a pass perfectly and stole it for a breakaway dunk.
He later drove down the lane and put in a teardrop jumper that resembled Kalin Lucas against Kansas in the NCAA tournament a few years ago on the Spartans' way to a national championship appearance.
The quiet guard now finds himself with three regular season games left in his collegiate career with a one-game lead over Ohio State and Michigan for the Big Ten title. With Wood contributing, in many ways, the Spartans are laying the foundation down for another Final Four run.
As for the rest of the team last night, they looked flat out lazy.
Draymond Green had some awful passes early on, but the Spartans bounced back to give up only five turnovers on the night—a season low which pleased head coach Tom Izzo.
Green finished the game with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. He was able to keep the Spartans calm when the team faced disaster with under 10 minutes left.
Sophomore guard Keith Appling had one roller coaster night.
After getting a technical foul for hanging on the rim, and picking up two fouls in which Minnesota knocked down free free throws from them, the Detroit native bounced back to hit the game winning free throws with 30 seconds left to play.
He closed the game out by hitting all six free throws. He also had a career-best zero turnovers.
Centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne both had off nights, which was rare, and it almost cost MSU. Usually one of them is able to pick the other up and play well, but neither could do much against Minnesota center Ralph Sampson III. Senior guard Austin Thorton went back to his shooting woes.
The Cedar Springs native shot 0-for-5, including 0-for-4 from downtown.
Michigan State next plays Nebraska at the Breslin Center on Saturday.