The Michigan State basketball team closed out its exhibition season Monday night, with a 83-45 victory over the Indiana (PA) Crimson Hawks.
The Spartans were led in scoring by sophomore shooting guard Gary Harris, who finished with 21 points, including 5-7 from three. Junior Branden Dawson added 10 points, while senior point guard Keith Appling played the role of distributor for the night, finishing with 11 assists and 0 turnovers.
As for the MSU Basketball team’s opponent for the night, Indiana (PA) is a very successful Divsion II program, ranked No. 15 in Division II, as well as having gone 108-21 over the past four seasons.
However, as the game got going, Michigan State’s size, speed, and athleticism proved too much to handle for the outmatched Hawks, as Michigan State connected on threes over the IUP zone all night long.
“Michigan State is by far the best team we’ve played in the last four years of exhibitions,” IUP head basketball coach Joe Lombardi said after the game, bringing up the point that they’ve played teams the likes of Pittsburgh, Maryland and Wake Forest over the years.
As for individual performances on the night, Michigan State senior point guard Keith Appling certainly made some plays. Normally thought to be more of a scoring point guard, as mentioned before, Appling finished the game with just 3 points, 11 assists, and 0 turnovers, playing the role of distributor throughout the night.
“That’s my job,” Appling said. “I’m the point guard. I’m supposed to run the team. The other guys, they had it going and I was trying to keep them hot and keep control of the flow of the game…It’s something that I focused on. Scoring is something that I can do. I know that I can do that well. I just wanted to work on some other things especially with these exhibition games to get better as an individual player and as a team at the same time. That was my whole mindset going out there and I felt like it worked out well for me.”
As for the guy who stole much of the show Monday night, Gary Harris finished with 21 points on 5-7 fom behind the three, but attributes part of the reason for his stellar play to his teammate Appling.
“I gotta give Keith the credit really,” Harris said. “He started off the game finding people. I was able to knock down shots and we were able to get going early.”
And lastly, the final star of the night was Russell Byrd, who connected on three 3-pointers on the night to finish with 9 points.
“I’m pleased with Russell,” Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo said. “He keeps battling. He’s in here morning, noon and night (practicing). Russ is starting to get the edge back a little bit.”
Nevertheless despite winning by a large margin, Izzo still found some things to harp on at the end of the game, bringing up the point that his team didn’t close the game well in the last eight minutes, citing poor shooting and turnovers as the main problem.
Also, for the second straight game, Michigan State struggled mightily from the free throw line, finishing the game going just 10-21.
“If you want to talk to any of our players, just come to the gym,” Izzo said. “They’ll be in cots, sleeping there, shooting free throws.”
However, according to Harris, the Spartans will get this problem sorted out.
“I feel like we’re going to be fine,” Harris said. “We’re all going to get in the gym and hold each other more accountable and we’re going to make sure we get it corrected.
Michigan State opens up the regular season Friday, November 8th at home against McNeese State. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 PM EST and will be televised on BTN.