EAST LANSING — Rocket Watts did not return to Michigan State basketball’s sideline in the second half of Saturday’s 88-58 blowout loss to No. 16 Iowa.
A team spokesman said the sophomore shooting guard left for “health and safety precautions.” Coach Tom Izzo said after the game that Watts was “a little bit sick” with stomach issues but had registered negative results for COVID-19 with his rapid antigen test the morning of the game.
Izzo said Watts was supposed to take a PCR swab test after leaving Breslin Center, with results expected by Sunday.
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“It’s just another situation that we’ll deal with,” Izzo said.
Michigan State’s Rocket Watts, right, looks to pass as Iowa’s Joe Toussaint defends during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Izzo said team medical staff handled Watts the same way they did when Thomas Kithier felt sick during the Spartans’ game last Saturday against Nebraska. The Kithier’s PCR test for COVID-19 came back negative, and he has not missed a game.
Watts checked out of the game with 2:07 remaining in the first half after playing played 10 minutes and 22 seconds consecutively. He scored three points on 1 of 5 shooting, making 1 of 3 from behind the 3-point arc, and added two rebounds and two assists.
“At halftime, he got real sick,” Izzo said. “And so they did the same thing they did with Kithier, they rushed him off. And he’ll go through all the protocol. … It also could be the flu or something. We’ll probably find out tomorrow but still have to keep him out a couple days because whatever the protocol is.”
Izzo benched a healthy Aaron Henry for just under eight minutes of the first half. His reason for sitting his junior captain?
“It’s just kind of the way it worked out,” Izzo said. “I think Aaron, the energy maybe wasn’t there.”
Henry re-entered and scored six straight for the Spartans in the final 4:15 before halftime. He threw down an angry tomahawk dunk after driving to the basket on his first offensive possession, then put back his own miss and made two free throws.
Still, MSU trailed 46-27 at intermission. The Spartans got outscored 17-8 between when Henry checked out at 12:29 and returned with 4:31 left in the half.
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Izzo said he and his staff felt Henry may have been “a little tired.”
“We’re gonna have that happen sometimes,” Izzo said. “And I thought at the end of that half, when he went back in, and the beginning of the second half, there was a different energy level.”
Henry finished making 5 of 11 shots for 13 points — 11 of them coming after his extended rest and added four rebounds and two assists over 22 minutes against the Hawkeyes. The 6-foot-6 swingman had 24 points in the first meeting Feb. 2, an 84-78 Iowa win.
The Spartans’ shooting struggles (22-for-62, 35.5% from the field) continued against the Hawkeyes.
MSU shot 6 of 21 from 3-point range, with Gabe Brown hitting two and Joey Hauser one as the Spartans made their final three attempts in the final 4:52.
It was the fourth time in the Spartans’ last seven games they shot worse than 40% and sixth time making less than 30% of 3-point attempts in that stretch. They are 40 of 145 (27.6%) from behind the arc in losing five of their last seven games.
MSU entered Saturday ranked 12th in the Big Ten in both field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting percentage during conference play.
“Everybody slumps a little bit when you’re getting your butt kicked,” Izzo said.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball: Rocket Watts sick, Aaron Henry sits in loss
Published: 2021-02-14 15:14:09
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