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EAST LANSING — Marcus Bingham Jr. grabbed an offensive rebound in the paint and kicked the ball back out front. A missed Michigan State basketball shot found its way back into his hands on a long rebound at the top of the key.
No one around him on the perimeter, a clear 3-point attempt in sight. No one in front of him, either.
Instead of shooting from long distance, Bingham dribbled into the lane and drew a foul. He tapped his head on the basket stanchion, then turned around with a smile to high-five to his teammates.
“The first reaction was to just go,” Bingham said. “Just in times like that, if I got an open lane, I might as well just take it. You know, why not?”
In one quick possession during the Spartans’ 90-46 win over Western Michigan, Bingham showed everything Tom Izzo wanted from his veteran big man. Particularly after Bingham struggled from outside three days earlier against No. 3 Kansas.
“The 3-point line, if he can stay inside of it — not that he can't shoot — but he can do so many more things like get fouled, like get a rebound because he's in position,” Izzo said Friday night. “He's got a beautiful jump hook. I'm excited. I think Marcus was excited about what he did. It's hard to excite Marcus. And yet I think there were a few meetings after that loss because of how we played, and boy, he responded really well.”
The 7-foot, 230-pound senior scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting against the Broncos, all inside the 3-point arc. He also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked two shots and had two steals in nearly 18 minutes.
That continued a strong start for Bingham, who opened the season against the Jayhawks with 10 points and seven rebounds. He went 5-for-7 in the paint against David McCormack, Kansas’ 6-10, 250-pound center, but missed all three 3-pointers he attempted in the loss.
“They got (McCormack) projected for everything in their league, the Big 12, so that matchup, I was looking forward to it,” Bingham said Friday. “And then using some of the moves I work on every day and stuff like that, if it works on him, it can work on anybody else because they got him so high and all these accolades and stuff. And then hearing the confidence from my coach, telling me to go to it, it really helps.”
On Friday, Izzo equally was impressed by Bingham drawing four fouls, including two on Titus Wright in the first 45 seconds that kept the WMU center on the bench for the rest of the first half. Bingham drew only one against Kansas.
“In practice, we told him that he's unstoppable on the block. No one can stop him,” sophomore point guard A.J. Hoggard said. “He was unstoppable in the Kansas game on the block versus a real 7-footer as well. So we told him they were gonna pound him and come to him, and we don't want him to shoot 3s, we don't want him to fade away. We wanted him to go right through people's hearts and get fouls.
“Early on, he drew two fouls on their big — that was important for Marcus, because we want to we want him to see how special he is on the block when he gets in and goes to work.”
Hoggard — who also delivered a wrap-around assist to Bingham for a dunk as the Spartans outscored WMU in the paint, 50-24 — said he saw his veteran big man take heed of everything Izzo preached after the Kansas game.
“I mean, he believes in himself. But I just think he needs to see it, see results out of it,” Hoggard said. “He went 5 to 7 against a big guy, a good big guy, on the No. 3 team in the country, so you can do that every night. You don't need to fade away, you don't need to shoot a 3. You can go get your 20 and 10 however you want it on the block, because can't nobody stop you when (you go hard) when you're 7-foot.”
Izzo has been complimentary of Bingham’s sweeping hook shot coming across the paint, using all of his 7-4 wingspan and quick footwork against bigger, slower opponents to elevate over them if they try and go for a block.
“It's something I know I can make,” Bingham said. “I'll probably make it nine out of 10 times, 10 out of 10 on a good night. The confidence from my coach and myself is really big. … It’s starting to come together.”
Izzo agreed, saying he could have played Bingham longer to show off more of those skills but held him back when MSU’s lead swelled to nearly 50 points.
“It's hard to evaluate sometimes, and that's why it was good that we played Kansas and really critiqued that film and tried to improve on the things that we didn't do as good a job,” Izzo said. “One of them is putting Marcus on that block, and I thought that was better.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball has a plan for big man Marcus Bingham Jr