March 13, 2009
VIDEO: Allen heating up during post-season play
INDIANAPOLIS - When Michigan State sophomore Chris Allen led the Spartans in scoring in an otherwise forgettable game against Memphis in the Sweet 16 last March, most assumed the sweet-shooting wing from Georgia would be the player to step into the role that would pick up a lot of the perimeter scoring lost when Drew Neitzel graduated last year.
While Allen has had a respectable sophomore season, averaging 8.8 points per game, turned in a handful of 20-point plus performances, and shown signs of turning the corner in regards to becoming a functional defensive player in a program that strives for perfection on defense, Allen has rarely looked like the player that torched Memphis when few of his teammates could do anything against the length of the national runner-up.
During practice this week, however, Allen ratcheted up his focus, his defense and his overall game in a series of pre-Big Ten tournament practices while the rest of the Michigan State campus was on spring break.
At the podium following Michigan State's 64-56 quarterfinal win over Minnesota, Izzo said that Allen had his best week of practice of his young Spartan career. In the locker room after the game, Izzo said he was proud of the way his sophomore wing transitioned his success in practice onto the court at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"He is really a good player," said Izzo of Allen, who scored 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes off of the bench. "If we can get him healthy and get him back and I can get Durrell Summers going, if we can get those two guys going on each wing, it makes us a better team and we can move Ray in and out. It is just a matter of getting those people together and that is what has been frustrating for me the whole season because we haven't been able to get that to happen. But I feel like we might be heading the right direction. It wasn't a pretty win. It wasn't our best. Minnesota deserves some credit, we deserve some blame. But we are moving on."
Izzo has made it a point of emphasis during the last week to work with his sophomore wings to elevate their play with the regular season over. Allen is doing everything he can to buy into what his coach is teaching.
"Chris had an unbelievable week of practice," said Izzo. "If there was ever a time as a coach, I told him yesterday during our walk through at the little gym here, 'You had a good week from a coaching standpoint, you deserve to have a good game.' I give him credit. I think he had a great week. He was really laid up with sickness and couldn't really go in those two games. Hopefully this propels him."
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