Appling Leads Spartans Past Pilots

Photo by David Defever

NOV 19, 2013 – The Spartans squared off against the Portland Pilots on Monday night as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. After surviving a scare against Columbia on Friday, Coach Izzo decided to shake up the starting lineup.  Gauna and Denzel Valentine started in place of Branden Dawson and Matt Costello. Dawson had eight points and seven rebounds against Columbia, and Costello failed to score in only 10 minutes of action.

Both teams traded blows during the entire first half, with Michigan State taking a seven-point lead with just over six minutes to play. Portland then went on a 9-1 run to take the lead with just over three minutes remaining in the half.

Back-and-forth play ensued, with the Spartans never being able to pull away from the Pilots. MSU held on to a slim four-point lead at halftime, largely due to the hot hand of Keith Appling. The senior scored 16 points on 4-4 shooting from beyond the arc, all in the first half.

In the second half, the Spartans finally started to pull away. After back-to-back threes by Gary Harris, MSU took a 10-point lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.

State wouldn’t look back after that, eventually extending their lead to 18 with 3:52 left. Appling continued his hot streak, scoring nine second-half points for a total of 25. The Spartans went on to win the game 82-67.

Appling’s 25 points tied his career high. Izzo said it was “one of the greatest point guard performances in many many years.”

Keith responded well after a disappointing three-point performance against Columbia. Izzo said he thinks Appling is becoming a leader, but just needs to work on communication. He went on to say that Appling is not the same player from last year. Hopefully he can continue his hot streak into conference season.

Adreian Payne scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. With Costello and Gauna playing a combined 19 minutes, Dawson was forced to play much of the game at the power forward position. He was effective on the boards, with a team-high 10 rebounds. Dawson also had a huge impact on the offensive side, with numerous offensive rebounds and tip-ins.

The Spartans need to figure out who is going to anchor the five position. Gauna got the start, but was only used sparingly. Costello was effective when he was on the court, grabbing five rebounds in 10 minutes. It will be interesting to see how Izzo will handle the rotation going forward.

Although the Spartans won by 15, they did not look like the No. 1 team in the nation. Izzo jokingly said that he doesn’t have to worry about peaking in November. The Spartans head to Brooklyn on Friday and Saturday for the Coaches vs. Cancer Championship rounds.

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2013-14 MSU Basketball Season Preview

Nov 8, 2013 – McNeese State will kick off the action for the Spartans on Friday before they head to the Windy City to take on John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. But before the season begins, all of the experts have weighed in on how the Spartans will fare. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say about the green and white.

Bleacher Report recently published a list of the top 100 players in college basketball. They had four out of five of coach Tom Izzo’s starters on the list: Branden Dawson (88), Keith Appling (33), Adreian Payne (22), and Gary Harris (9). They also released their Big Ten predictions, putting MSU at the head of the class and Adreian Payne as the Big Ten Player of the Year. However, they have the Ohio State Buckeyes winning the B1G Tournament in Indy.

ESPN released their annual preseason poll, ranking MSU No. 2, behind Kentucky and in front of defending national champion Louisville. In a separate article, 18 out of 20 experts had the Spartans making the Final Four, with six writers predicting them to cut down the nets in Jerry-World Dallas in April. Three experts said that Tom Izzo would be Coach of the Year, and nobody picked a Spartan for Player of the Year.

CBS Sports released their preseason All-American teams, with Adreian Payne being the only Spartan selected, making the third team. Their top 25 slated Michigan State at No. 3, trading positions with Louisville. Their preseason bracketology gives Michigan State the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, with Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke claiming the other three No. 1 seeds. For their Big Ten preview, the Spartans are again predicted to finish first. Gary Harris and Adreian Payne made the preseason All-Big Ten team, with Harris also picked as the preseason Player of the Year. Izzo was selected as the Coach of the Year as well. Their top 100 players list included Gary Harris (7), Adreian Payne (15), Branden Dawson (56), and Keith Appling (82).

According to CBS Sports, Las Vegas released their odds on several different categories in college basketball. For the National Championship, they gave MSU 9-1 odds, fifth best in the nation. For Player of the Year, they gave Adreian Payne 14-1 odds (ninth best) and gave Gary Harris 50-1 odds (13th best). They gave MSU 2-1 odds to win the Big Ten, tops in the conference.

Overall, everyone seems to be high on the Spartans this year, as expected. The season would be considered a disappointment if Sparty didn’t make the National Championship game. This is one of the deepest Michigan State teams that Izzo has been fortunate enough to coach in years, with four NBA prospects on the team and experience everywhere.

The Spartans will get a chance to prove themselves early in the season, facing No. 1 ranked Kentucky on Tuesday in Chicago. Izzo also scheduled North Carolina (12th in the AP poll, 11th in the ESPN/USA Today poll) on December 4 at home, and unranked Georgetown on Super Bowl Saturday at Madison Square Garden. This matchup might be the most intriguing because of its timing. Most coaches don’t schedule non-conference games in the middle of conference play, but Izzo isn’t most coaches. The Spartans have never been afraid of stiff competition in their non-conference schedule. Just last year, they played Connecticut, Miami, Texas and Kansas all before they started Big Ten play.

Froling’s Prediction: Michigan State will finish first in the Big Ten during the regular season and will win the tournament. Branden Dawson will be the most improved player, Gary Harris will be the Big Ten Player of the Year and finish in the top-five in the voting for Naismith Player of the Year, along with Adreian Payne, but Creighton’s Doug McDermott will take Player of the Year the honors. The Final Four in Dallas will include MSU, Kansas, Duke, and Ohio State, with MSU losing to Kansas in the Championship Game.

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