EAST LANSING, Mich. — Minutes have been hard to come by for Myke Henry. After a rough outing in a loss at Nebraska three weeks ago, the sophomore forward didn’t play against Northwestern and got five minutes in the win at Nebraska.
Henry played 10 minutes in Sunday’s loss to Michigan and played well enough to warrant another opportunity in Thursday’s 80-75 loss at No. 13 Michigan State.
Henry scored a season-high 11 points against the Spartans in 21 minutes. He grabbed two rebounds — both offensive — and had a block in a standout performance.
“Tonight he was good. He’s played like this before; this isn’t the first time he’s played like this,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “We need him to be more consistent. We need him to have the same edge he had tonight moving forward.
“He’s more than capable; it’s a mind-set. We need Myke to play like Myke played tonight more consistently.”
Outside the locker room, showcasing that easy smile that was present even through his struggles, Henry said it’s just been a matter of waiting his turn and getting back to playing at the level he knows he’s capable.
“My confidence is always high. It’s just a little boost for me,” he said. “The main thing was just staying positive and waiting my turn, so when Coach gave me an opportunity, I just had to take advantage of it.”
Michigan State played the majority of the second half without key guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice.
Trice left after taking an accidental knee to the head. Harris scored 14 points before leaving early in the second half with a back injury.
“Trice, that ain’t good,” Michigan State coach TOM Izzo said. “Harris, I think it was out of whack, he went down pretty good. It was a clean foul. I think it spasmed up bad and he couldn’t go back in.
“I’ve got a feeling one of them (Trice) is going to be out for a while. If what we think happened, happened, it was pretty severe, accidental knee to the head. If that happened, I don’t know. The first check I did, there was nothing good to report.”
Michigan State started the game without 6-foot-9, 270-pound center Derrick Nix.
The senior, who is 13 hours from graduating, missed a class last Friday and missed a tutoring session Monday.
“He will be the first human being in his family who has graduated,” Izzo said. “It will be a cold day in hell before I do anything but get him graduated. If he has to sit the rest of the games, he will.
“For that kid to graduate in four years will be triumphant for me in a positive way. Presidents and the NCAA have put it on coaches to get these kids to graduate. Did it hurt my team tonight? You’re damn right it did. It’s a distraction, but that’s the way it is. He didn’t do anything else. He didn’t rob the 7-11.”