Indianapolis– Kenny Goins wasn’t exactly the top priority on Kansas’ scouting report coming into Tuesday’s matchup in the Champions Classic between top-ranked Kansas and No. 10 Michigan State.
By the time the game was over, however, the Jayhawks knew all about the fifth-year senior. Kansas won the game, 92-87, holding off a furious Michigan State rally, but it was the play of Goins that kept the Spartans in the game as he finished with a career-high 17 points with three 3-pointers and 11 rebounds.
“I don’t think a lot of guys expected me to come out shoot the way I did,” Goins said. “Even in the line (Kansas coach) Bill Self said, ‘We kind of planned on you shooting but shouldn’t have let you take as many as you did.’”
Goins got the start and did his best to keep Michigan State in the game in the first half. While the Spartans were turning the ball away and missing shots, Goins had nine points and seven rebounds.
“I don’t think we played as hard as we did in the second half,” Goins said. “I don’t know why the hustle wasn’t there.”
It was in the second, and Goins deserves plenty of credit. He’s always been Michigan State’s “glue guy,” doing all the dirty work. He did plenty of that against the Jayhawks, hitting the glass while defending wings and post players. He even added a key rebound and put-back in the final minutes that allowed the Spartans to remain in striking distance.
“It’s just having that confidence and being on this stage as many times as I have you kind of know what to expect,” Goins said. “The bright lights don’t scare you as much now.”
Goins showed how fearless he was with his expanded offensive game. He looked like the stretch 4 that has had a significant role in Michigan State’s offense, going 5-for-11 from the field and 3-for-8 on 3-pointers. If he keeps making shots the way he did against Kansas, it bodes well for the Spartans.
“I’ve just got to be consistent with it now,” Goins said. “I have to stay in the gym and keep working on my shot. I missed a couple big ones in the second half, but I don’t think that’s what lost us the game. I’ll just keep moving forward and try and raise that percentage.”
Even with the loss, Goins believes the Spartans can take some positives from Tuesday night.
“That’s the No. 1 team in country and we lost by four or five,” Goins said. “So that’s got to speak volumes for us and we can fight back. That’s a character trait and we’ve just got to get better.”
I held my own
Four of Michigan State’s five freshmen saw action against Kansas with only forward Gabe Brown not getting off the bench.
Forward Thomas Kithier was mostly used to eat up some fouls in his nearly three minutes while forward Marcus Bingham Jr. blocked a shot playing just the final 33 seconds of the first half. Guard Foster Loyer spelled Cassius Winston at the point and scored two points in 4:22.
The freshman who saw the most work was Aaron Henry. He played nearly 15 minutes and had four points, three rebounds and a steal.
“I felt like I held my own. I felt like I did fine,” Henry said. “I felt I was well-prepared for the game and I just have to show coach I can do more of that and be ready. Be game-ready. He’s not gonna put me in a position where I’m not gonna succeed or he thinks I’m not gonna do well but just be ready. Stay ready all the time is the key.”