Entering No. 6 Michigan State’s Friday’s matchup with Ohio State, almost nobody was expecting Foster Loyer to step up on the biggest of stages the way he did.
Especially considering the highly-decorated high-school star had only logged 167 minutes total in 29 games played in his freshman season.
But it was Loyer’s career afternoon, tallying 14 points on a blazing 4-of-5 performance from 3-point land, which proved to be the difference-maker in the Spartans’ 77-70 win over the Buckeyes.
“He [Loyer] looked so smooth and comfortable tonight, head coach Tom Izzo said, after notching his 600th career win in his 24th season on the sidelines. “He definitely saved us in the first half.”
After being named the Player of the Year in the Big Ten a week ago, it’s assumed that it’d be Cassius Winston leading the scoring charge for the Spartans (which he still did), something he’s now done 19 times in the 32 games played this year.
But it was Loyer’s play in the first half, adding nine points on a perfect 3-for-3 clip from downtown, which was crucial in keeping MSU above water. It was even more pivotal considering Winston was subjected to an earful for just about all of the eight minutes he spent on the bench, after his coach was peeved with his three careless turnovers and lackadaisical play in the early stages of the half.
“I know that I can play. I know what I have inside of me and know what I can do,” Loyer said, grinning ear-to-ear. “I try to go in each and every day at practice and show my teammates that as well. It was special to go out there and do what we did.”
“He [Loyer] puts in so much work at practice and he scores the ball really well,” Xaxier Tillman added, echoing the same sentiments the rest of his teammates had in the locker room. “To be able to showcase that in front of a big crowd like this and in a big event on national television is really big for him.”
Following the game, Izzo couldn’t say enough about the breakthrough performance of his freshman. He even added that Winston has been in Loyer’s corner since the first day he stepped on campus.
“Cassius Winston has been Foster’s biggest cheerleader since he’s been on campus,” Izzo said in the middle of a large media scrum. “Maybe it’s in the culture. If your culture’s good enough that you plug in people and get similar results, then I think you’ve got something going.”
With the impressive outing from Loyer, Winston enjoyed the decreased work load, after spraining his toe in the Michigan win, a minor injury which kept him out of practice for much of the week leading up to the conference tournament.
“It’s always a bonus when he [Loyer] can get out there and get some key minutes and contribute the way he did,” Winston said. “To have a guy like that who can step in and play like that, it’s going to be big.”
Those contributions from Loyer will become increasingly bigger as the Spartans look to capture their league-leading sixth Big Ten Tournament Championship.
Michigan State will play in its second consecutive conference tournament semifinal on Saturday against the winner of Nebraska and Wisconsin, both teams the Spartans have handled in the regular season.