The Michigan State Spartans may have lost their big-time match up with No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday night, but on Friday, it was revealed that former MSU great and Hall of Fame NBA superstar, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, saw something in the loss that others, including head coach Tom Izzo, may not have seen at the time.
Matt Costello, a freshman with Michigan State, hasn't made a big impact quite yet this season or gotten many of the analysts talking about his skills; and it's no wonder when he doesn't see hardly as much playing time as others on the court. Still, the young athlete caught the attention of Johnson, who was in the Breslin Center during the game making a special appearance calling the game for ESPN.
The Spartans were trailing the Hoosiers 45-40 when Costello first checked into the game at the 15:27 mark; Michigan State's offense was slow and Indiana's Victor Oladipo was shredding the floor. Johnson began to quip with concern for his alma mater.
"Where is Michigan State gonna get their offense from with these guys on the court?'' Magic asked during the broadcast.
Clearly Johnson wasn't taken aback by the insertion of Costello into the lineup on the floor that already included MSU's big names in Keith Appling, Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Alex Gauna. Then Costello blocked a quick shot taken by Hoosier point guard Yogi Ferrell and followed it with a fine block on Oladipo, as well.
The injection of Costello and his tenacity seemed to work, and the Spartans rallied to take a 49-48 lead. Johnson, not appeased at first, soon found himself singing young Costello's praises.
"Costello did do a wonderful job of bringing the energy back into the game.,' Johnson commented.
On Friday, MSU head coach Tom Izzo also noted that he'd watched the game film from the 72-68 loss and was impressed with Costello's performance, despite his overall lack of playing time - and that was something he wanted to see more of from his team as a whole.
"I've been really happy with Costello,'' Izzo said. "He plays with some energy, he plays with some toughness, we haven't been screening well enough, that's been a big point of emphasis today, and Costello is one of our better screeners.
"He's getting his chance and he's making good use of it.''
As for Costello himself, the freshman was just happy to help get his team back into the mix of things against the Hoosiers while he was out there. In the end, he hopes to see this enthusiasm translate into later games this season, as well.
"It was great, we got the team going, we got up by one, we were rolling when I was in there and it felt great at the time,'' Costello said. "It did feel great. But I'm disappointed we didn't finish the game with a win.
"I hope we can pick it up the next time we play Indiana, and going into Ohio State I'd like to do that. But I was really disappointed after that game.''
You can follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.