EAST LANSING, MI— Keith Appling sat nonchalantly munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his seat in the Spartan locker room late Saturday afternoon after a Michigan State win over New Orleans, 101-48. When asked whether scoring 27 points or having walk-ons score baskets was more exciting, Appling gave his response: “Winning.”
Today’s Spartan basketball game against the New Orleans Privateers was exactly what coach Izzo wanted it to be. The Spartans dominated in all facets of the game— they won the rebounding battle, the assist battle, the shooting battle, the foul battle, the turnover battle and packed the stadium even with the absence of students.
For the first eight minutes of the game, it was a tight battle. Both teams were putting up points, both teams were responding. Then, the Spartans offense started to heat up and the game became out of hand. The Spartans— who were down 10-9 at the 12:00 minute mark— went on a 17-6 run, led by the stars of the team on both ends of the court (Appling, Harris, Payne). By the 7:50 mark, MSU had a commanding 26-16 lead, and didn’t slow down from there. While they had a few lapses on defensive rotations (Payne looked lost a couple of times), their offense continued to produce. After another small 7-0 run capped off with a dunk and a foul from Gary Harris late in the first half, the Spartans looked like they were no longer playing to their competition. The score was 44-27 in favor of the Spartans at halftime.
The game wasn’t close the entire second half. The Spartans began firing on all cylinders, and the Privateers of New Orleans couldn’t keep up and never even got within 20 points of Michigan State. At the 7:50 mark of the second half, the Spartans took the lead, 73-42, a 31-point lead. At that point, the mood of the game changed to a total beat-down. MSU was toying with New Orleans the entire time, and after walk-ons Colby Wollenman, Trevor Bonhoff and Dan Chapman scored baskets of their own, the green and white came out on top 101-48.
Things we saw
•Keith Appling rebounded from his poor showing against Texas with 27 points on 70% shooting from the field. “Keith has the ball in his hands the majority of the game, so when he’s doing his thing, we just let him go to work.” said forward Adreian Payne. While Appling’s been battling wrist and hip injuries— the wrist injury is worrying Coach Izzo, in particular— Keith said that tonight’s the best he has felt in a long time. That’s a good sign, as the Big Ten conference season starts on New Year’s Eve.
•Gary Harris started off 0-4 from the field before heating up and eventually scoring 19 points on a surprisingly efficient 41% shooting rate. “When I’m not shooting well, I just shoot more,” said Harris on his early shooting woes. I guess if the solution is really that effective, maybe Izzo should let him keep shooting.
•We saw walk-ons score a combined six points! One of the walk-ons, Colby Wollenman, played early in the second half and earned praise from Tom Izzo. “I asked him if he wanted to be redshirted for his freshman year,” said Coach Izzo, “I could see him as a starter in the future.”
•Russell Byrd, Izzo’s fallen star, played 17 minutes tonight, which ties a season high. “Don’t read too much into that,” said Coach Izzo about his minutes, “remember that two of my starters are injured.” It sounds as if this is a one-time thing for Byrd, not a trend.
•Denzel Valentine played the best game of his career tonight. He scored 10 points on 44% shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds. “I was just picking up some slack for BJ [Dawson] and [Matt] Costello,” said Valentine, shrugging off his accomplishment.