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Michigan State loses wing Branden Dawson to torn ACL

Mar 4, 2012, 9:19 PM EDT

spt-120304-dawson AP

Michigan State’s had better days.

Just hours after losing its regular-season finale to No. 10 Ohio State – and its chance for an outright Big Ten title – the No. 5 Spartans learned wing Branden Dawson tore the ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.

Dawson, a 6-5 freshman who is Michigan State’s third-leading scorer (8.5 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (4.6), was injured early in the first half and didn’t play again. An MRI confirmed the injury.

The Spartans (24-7, 13-5 in Big Ten) will miss Dawson’s athleticism – he’s great on the break and the offensive glass – and alleviating the defensive responsibilities for senior Draymond Green. MSU doesn’t have any other players with Dawson’s mix of size and athletic ability. He’s an efficient scorer, too, mostly because unlike many freshmen, he doesn’t force shots.

Michigan State could boost playing time for forwards Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix and go big to counteract Dawson’s loss, but I doubt coach Tom Izzo will settle on just one look. He’ll likely use the Big Ten tournament as a way to test the Spartans’ depth and make lineup tweaks and  before the NCAA tournament starts.

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