Goins rolls as a role player

Se­nior with range of skills could be ‘big dif­fer­ence’ maker

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY MATT CHARBONEAU The Detroit News

East Lans­ing — When Kansas and Michi­gan State shook hands on Tues­day night, Jay­hawks coach Bill Self re­vealed to Spar­tans’ se­nior Kenny Goins a mis­take in his game plan.

The Jay­hawks knew Goins was a player ca­pa­ble of hit­ting some shots, they just didn’t think it would be that many.

“We kind of planned on you shoot­ing. but shouldn’t have let you take as many as you did,” Goins said, re­lay­ing what the Kansas coach told him.

Goins was one of the bright spots for No. 10 Michi­gan State dur­ing its 92-87 loss to No. 1 Kansas in the Cham­pi­ons Clas­sic. He scored a ca­reer-high 17 points and grabbed 11 re­bounds in nearly 33 min­utes of ac­tion. He was also 3-for-8 from 3-point range and scored nine first-half points to help keep the game from get­ting com­pletely out of hand.

It was quite the night for Michi­gan State’s ul­ti­mate role player, who has spent the bet­ter part of his four-plus sea­sons with the Spar­tans do­ing what­ever is nec­es­sary, whether that’s de­fend­ing a much big­ger player in the post or check­ing more ath­letic play­ers on the perime­ter.

Head­ing into Sun­day’s home opener at 6 p.m. against Florida Gulf Coast, the 6-foot-7 Goins could be get­ting set to pro­vide much more of an of­fen­sive punch in his fi­nal sea­son.

“A big dif­fer­ence,” Michi­gan State coach Tom Izzo said of the im­pact Goins could have, “be­cause he’s good enough to guard those stretch fours like (Kansas’ Dedric Law­son). Even though he got to the line a lot he was 5for-18 (from the floor). I think he’s a hell of a player, but he didn’t shoot that well against us.

“And Kenny is shoot­ing well. He’s shoot­ing well from the line, though he didn’t shoot well from the line (against Kansas). He re­bounded well and slashed well.”

It’s the sort of con­tri­bu­tion Goins al­ways has been sure he could pro­vide, but it’s some­thing ev­ery­one out­side the pro­gram is now see­ing.

“I feel like I showed it around here in the sum­mer and open gym,” Goins said. “It’s more of a con­fi­dence-booster for Spar­tan Na­tion and you guys more than any­thing.”

That part is true, con­sid­er­ing Goins had scored in dou­ble fig­ures just twice in his ca­reer, notch­ing 10 points each against Duke and Ne­braska as a sopho­more in the 2016-17 sea­son.

But his value has never been gauged by points. He’s al­ways been the type of player that can be used in a num­ber of spots and rarely hurts the team.

“I’ve al­ways been a guy that does what the team needs me to do,” Goins said. “That night it seemed to be scor­ing the ball. I don’t ex­pect it ev­ery night, but if that’s the role I’ll gladly step into it.

“But I think this team has a ma­jor up­side be­cause I can play a big­ger role but other guys can step up their game, too. We didn’t have our best game, so the sky’s the limit.”

The Spar­tans (0-1) will need to step up against a Florida Gulf Coast team that nearly won the last time it vis­ited the Bres­lin Cen­ter. Back in 2016, the Ea­gles came within a point of beat­ing the Spar­tans. Their last-sec­ond shot came af­ter the buzzer when the clock started early, but the ball bounced off the rim, se­cur­ing Michi­gan State’s 78-77 win.

Whether some­thing sim­i­lar is in store this sea­son re­mains to be seen. Florida Gulf Coast, which won 23 games last sea­son, en­ters the game with a loss at South­ern Illi­nois and a win over South­east­ern. For­mer Michi­gan big man Ricky Doyle is on the ros­ter that fea­tures a hand­ful of trans­fers.

They’ ll have the full at­ten­tion of the Spar­tans, Goins in­cluded. He might not score 17 again, but there’s lit­tle doubt Goins will be pre­pared for what­ever comes his way.

“My con­fi­dence is fully there,” Goins said. “The coaches’ con­fi­dence (in me) hasn’t changed. I just know what to ex­pect. Five years around the block is an ex­pe­ri­ence, and you get to know what you’re do­ing around here.”

Char­lie Neibergall/As­so­ci­ated Press

Kenny Goins, right, may pro­vide more of­fen­sive punch in his fi­nal sea­son for the Spar­tans.

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