A healthy Gary Harris takes Michigan State to another level

This was the Gary Harris we’ve been waiting to see all season, the Gary Harris that many experts said in the preseason could be an All-American, the Gary Harris that was a five-star recruit back in high school.

The sophomore guard had 26 points and five steals to help lead Michigan State to a 73-56 win at Indiana on Saturday afternoon. Harris knocked down five 3-pointers, four in the first half, and his play at both ends of the floor was a spark for the Spartans.

If Harris continues to play like this the rest of the season, Michigan State is a title contender. He can score in multiple ways, knocking down shots from behind the arc, getting out in transition, and finishing at the rim. He also went to the free-throw line for six attempts.

It’s not that Harris has been bad this season, given that he is averaging more than 17 points per game and had scored at least 19 points on six separate occasions heading into Saturday. But his shooting numbers were down, both from behind the arc and from 2-point range. More concerning, though, were the injuries that were hampering Harris.

Harris suffered a sprained ankle back in August, and he missed three games this season to try and recover from it. He was spotted in a walking boot in December, and he even said that the ankle wasn’t 100 percent yet.

He certainly looked fine on Saturday, though, making four 3-pointers early and going into halftime with 17 points. An Indiana native, Harris has played his best against the Hoosiers – now averaging 22 points in his three games against Tom Crean’s team.

Harris is one of the best shooting guards in the country, given his ability to make plays on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. He can be a go-to-guy for Tom Izzo, a player who can make shots at key moments of the game. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling struggled in the first half with foul trouble, but Harris made sure the Spartans didn’t miss a beat.

That’s what a healthy Harris brings to the table.

He also wasn’t the only player to take his game to another level now that he’s fully healthy. Branden Dawson missed a December 28 game against New Orleans with a shin bruise, but has picked it up in his past two games. Dawson had 13 points and six boards on Saturday, bringing his five-game averages to 14.4 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Michigan State dropped from the nation’s focus a bit after a 14-point home loss to North Carolina in early December, but it seems the Spartans are hitting their stride as they enter Big Ten play.

A healthy Harris certainly helps.  

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