EAST LANSING - Brandon Wood played so well coming off the bench on Sunday that it might cost him a starting job.
Tom Izzo said during Monday's weekly press conference that he might continue to use Wood as a sixth man for Wednesday's game against Penn State, and possibly the foreseeable future.
"I am going to give that some consideration," Izzo said. "I don't know what I'm going to do yet."
Izzo brought Wood off the bench for the first time all season during Sunday's 64-54 victory over Michigan, and Wood responded with one of his best all-around games of the year.
Wood was removed from the starting lineup after a sluggish performance at Illinois on Tuesday.
Against the Wolverines, Wood had 9 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds - including three offensive boards, each of which led to second-chance points for the Spartans. Perhaps of most importance, Wood played good, energetic defense.
"It just seemed like there was a little bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look on some stages," Izzo said of Wood's previous struggles.
That's a kind way of saying that Wood sometimes lost focus and intensity on defense. But that wasn't a problem for Wood against the Wolverines on Sunday. He also showed added vigor in challenging for loose balls.
"I thought he handled it as well as anybody in how he talked to me, how he talked to the team," Izzo said.
Izzo started senior Austin Thornton instead of Wood. But Wood played more minutes - 29, compared to Thornton's 21.
"I do like having a guy that comes off (the bench) thinking offense and scoring," Izzo said. "I am going to give that some great consideration. I will talk to him (Wood) and Austin and my staff and see what's best for us.
"It won't change his minutes for not starting; in fact he might get more."
Wood's 29 minutes as the sixth man were more than his season average of 26.4 minutes per game.
Wood is Michigan State's third-leading scorer at 8.9 points per game.
Izzo has been fond of bringing star players off the bench, and using players with less extensive roles as starters. In 1999, Izzo used Morris Peterson as a sixth man during Peterson's junior year. Peterson became first-team All-Big Ten and the Spartans went to Izzo's first Final Four. Peterson routinely subbed in for senior Jason Klein at the 4-minute mark of every game, if not sooner.
In 2005, Izzo moved long-time starters Kelvin Torbert and Chris Hill to the bench for different reason. Hill was slumping, and was replaced by then-freshman Drew Neitzel in the starting lineup. Torbert came off the bench to provide shooting punch and defensive grit. MSU went to Izzo's fourth Final Four in '05.
In 2010, Izzo settled into a routine of starting then-freshman Derrick Nix at center. Nix rarely played more than 15 minutes in games. Meanwhile, then-sophomore Draymond Green came off the bench and routinely played more than 20. MSU won the Big Ten title and went to the Final Four in 2010.
Notes & Quotes
"I am excited in the last couple of games we are holding teams to 36 percent (shooting) and out-rebounding teams by 20. We are doing a better and better job of that. Even in the loss to Illinois, we were pretty good on defense" - Izzo
What has enabled MSU to keep improving on defense?
"Keith Appling is the head guy and the body follows. He has been pretty consistent on defense. Brandon Wood improved the last game. Branden Dawson has improved the last four or five games.
"Brandan Kearney has done way more than I thought he would. Travis Trice has been decent. I don't think there is any question that inside, the center group has been pretty solid, pretty steady. This past game, they (the centers, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix) were even more diverse than they have been in the past as far as coverig things that they haven't had to do, not just on the block."
Izzo said Trice is recovering nicely from a groin and lower body injury that caused him to miss one game last week.
"He is a lot better; I wouldn't say 100 percent," Izzo said. "The only problem he is having now is lateral movement a little bit, and that is so much better than it was."
Izzo said the challenge right now for Trice is making up for missed practice time.
"I'm seeing a lot more out of Travis again," Izzo said. "I think that's good. He had a little bit of a slump there where it just didn't he was playing as smart or as hard. But he has been working on his game a lot. I think he realizes when you get it taken away for a week, it bothers you."
Trice scored 3 points in 14 solid minutes against Michigan. He nailed an early 3-pointer when Michigan briefly went zone.
Against Illinois on Tuesday, he scored 5 points in 22 minutes.