Michigan State men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo stood at the podium moments after the Spartans defeated Penn State Thursday night distraught and uncertain.
MSU had blown out another Big Ten foe, but had done so without a key senior leader.
Pointguard Keith Appling sat out Thursday night’s game after trainers informed Izzo that Appling could “barely move his wrist.”
“I can’t tell you what it was like to be sitting in my office, preparing for practice when the trainer calls and says he (Appling) can’t move his wrist,” Izzo said. “Things looked like they were getting better. It’s a strange deal. We’ve done the X-rays, maybe it just locked up on him. All five starters have been out at some point it has been hard on me and hard on my staff.”
The injury has been nagging Appling for the better part of a season during which the team has at no point in time been 100 percent healthy.
Another senior, forward Adreian Payne stole the spotlight Thursday night returning from foot injury. Payne played limited minutes but energized the Breslin Center crowd on more than one occasion.
“It felt good to be out there and be ready,” Payne said. “Once I was out there I was just going to forget about (his foot) and just play.”
In Appling’s absence, junior Travis Trice and sophomore Denzel Valentine led the offense. Valentine struggled early, but settled once Payne entered the game.
“Early in the game (Valentine) was out of control there,” Izzo said. “I think after we sat him down and got him back in there (with Payne), he had one of his better games tonight. Between Denzel and Trice we got a lot of assists tonight.”
Trice said playing without Appling gave MSU a spark.
“I’m a firm believer in just stepping up when it is your time,” Trice said. “My teammates make it easier for me. We have proven that the other (healthy) guys can step up when we need them to.”
Izzo was not able to give a timetable on Appling’s return. It is unclear whether the guard will make the trip to Wisconsin with the team.
Until the Spartans get Appling back, they remain optimistic they can succeed.
“It’s not like we are terrible with guys out,” Valentine said. “When the opportunity to lead the team is presented you have to step up and I think we did that tonight.”