McQuaid catches fire when Spartans need it most

No Spartan needed to have a bigger game Thursday night than shooting guard Matt McQuaid. And on a night when Michigan State didn’t have much going right for most of the game, the junior delivered in every way imaginable.

After scoring only 16 points in the Spartans’ first three games, McQuaid turned in a career-high 20 points to lead the team in Thursday night’s 73-51 victory over DePaul in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Ore.

He knocked down six out of his eight shots, all of which came from behind the three-point line. He had hit only one of his 10 three’s thus far in a season where outside shooting has looked like the Spartans’ only weakness.

McQuaid started his first game of the season due to the absence of Miles Bridges, who sat out to heal his left ankle, which was injured Sunday against Stony Brook. McQuaid wasted little time in giving thanks to Tom Izzo for starting him, hitting two three’s in the first five minutes of action at the tournament honoring Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

McQuaid’s breakout performance also came at an important juncture due to his teammates’ difficulty with staying on the floor. The No. 4 Spartans (3-1) struggled with foul trouble throughout the game, especially to its big men in the first half. In turn, the Spartans had to go deep into the bench several times in the contest.

On top of McQuaid, Conner George delivered a breakout performance, snagging five offensive rebounds and scoring a late hook shot to get into the scoring column.

In topping his previous career high of 17 points–scored on the road against Northwestern in his freshman year–McQuaid also showed toughness after sustaining injuries. Multiple times in the second half, McQuaid was noticeably wincing, which Izzo diagnosed as cramps postgame. Still, McQuaid powered through and played 28 of the best minutes of his career.

The Spartans went on an 18-2 run in the second half to break away from DePaul, who tied the game at 31 with a buzzer-beating three going into halftime. During that run, McQuaid hit three three’s while in pain from cramps, sucking the last bits of life out of the Blue Demons’ comeback hopes.

Michigan State fans will have to burn the midnight oil once again to watch the PK80 Invitational, as tipoff for the Spartans’ second round game against Connecticut is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Pacific time–that’s midnight Eastern. The Huskies defeated Phil Knight’s alma mater Oregon 71-63 on Thursday.