Michigan State-UConn: Breaking Down Debuting Spartans Harris, Valentine

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IINovember 9, 2012

Michigan State's Gary Harris
Michigan State's Gary HarrisMike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

There's obviously plenty room for improvement, but spectators saw just why freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine were highly-touted recruits primed to enter the college ranks with a bang this season.

Harris, a former 5-star Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) phenom, scored 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting Friday night during the Michigan State Spartans' 66-62 Armed Forces Classic loss to the UConn Huskies (1-0) in Germany.

Sure, the frosh-like mistakes were there. He looked lost at times, a bit confused and possibly caught off guard by his surroundings during his 30 minutes on the floor, but Harris had moments when he appeared to be a focused veteran.

Valentine, a reportedly Magic Johnson-like former Lansing Sexton (Mich.) star, contributed four points in 24 minutes, played adequate defense for the most part, threaded a nice pass or two, but took a few poor shots.

Again, neither did anything out of the ordinary, but their debuts were promising, more so when analyzing particular instances and plays, weighing the good vs. the bad.

So let's do that.


The Good of Harris' first time


He's been compared to Charlie Bell, so he must be a great defender, right?

It looks like Harris is as good as advertised, evidenced by his superior positioning and perimeter pressure displayed with about four minutes to play. The Huskies were moving the ball at will, but Harris helped put the clamps down by forcing Shabazz Napier to hoist a wild 3-pointer.



It was a last-gasp attempt, but Harris' pump-fake 3-point attempt with under two seconds to play was an example of creating the necessary scenario. At that point, Harris knew the Spartans needed something from behind the arc to tie the game.

So why not try to draw a foul and take the lead? He did that, minus taking the lead. 



This could go under defense as well, as a strip led to one of Harris' top passes of the night. UConn challenged in the paint, Harris joined the scrum, knocking the ball loose and then jetting it to Keith Appling, whose and-1 layup gave Michigan State a 58-56 lead with just over five minutes to go.


The bad of Harris' first time

He shot a paltry 1-for-5, scored two points and looked incredibly out-of-sync in the first half. Shooting woes didn't cease either, he shot 4-for-13 overall.

Airballing a 3-pointer to end the first half probably wasn't intended. He has the shot selection gene, he just didn't get many to fall Friday night.


The Good of Valentine's first time


There wasn't one shining example of excellent defense from Valentine, but he committed just one foul while playing aggressively against Huskies forwards.



Down 62-58 and driving in the paint, Valentine tried to make something happen with Harris. Instead of taking the shot, Valentine kicked the ball left to Harris, whose following assist led to Valentine's layup.



With just under 11 minutes to play, Valentine dropped a nice behind-the-back pass to Branden Dawson, whose layup cut UConn's lead to 50-48.

Michigan State faced a 16-point deficit at one time and battled a double-digit disadvantage for most of the first half. Valentine's assist helped further energize the Spartans' offense.

Each communicated—even if for a brief millisecond—on the play; it wasn't just a great pass from Harris, it was a great set up by Valentine.


The bad of Valentine's first time

He dribbled the ball off his foot and added to a growing list of Spartans turnovers. However, as Napier drove to the basket after coming away with the ball, Valentine successfully contested his shot with smart defense.


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