Dawson Stars in Return as Spartans Rally Past Nittany Lions

JAN 2 – With Branden Dawson and Matt Costello returning to the lineup, MSU (12-0, 1-0) looked to steamroll the up-and-coming Nittany Lions (9-5, 0-1). Dawson missed the New Orleans game with an injured shin, and Costello missed the last four games with mono.

In his last press conference, Tom Izzo said his team would have their work cut out for them in Happy Valley.

The Spartans stumbled out of the gates, finding themselves in a 10-3 hole in the opening minutes of the game. MSU was as cold as the weather outside, starting 2-10 from the field. Penn State was lights out from deep, going 7-12 from three-point land in the first half.

Michigan State was able to claw their way back, taking a two-point lead with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half. But Penn State quickly responded with an 18-4 run of their own to retake the lead. The Nittany Lions had a 47-40 edge at halftime.

Michigan State would not trail for long in the second half. Gary Harris came out blazing, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points of the half.

MSU went on a 10-0 run before the first TV timeout to take a 50-47 lead. Branden Dawson made his presence felt in the second half as well, scoring 12 points, grabbing four rebounds and picking up two blocks along the way.

Once the Spartans got on a roll, Penn State had no chance at a comeback. The Nittany Lions could only muster 16 points in the second half while shooting 5-20 from the field.

The Spartans continued their hot outside shooting, going 5-9 beyond the arc in the second half. Michigan State kept extending their lead throughout the half, eventually winning 79-63.

Branden Dawson did not miss a beat after sitting out against New Orleans. The junior led all scorers with 20 points on 8-14 shooting and added nine rebounds. Adreian Payne was quiet throughout the game, only scoring five points on five shots.

Travis Trice contributed 12 points from the bench, and Matt Costello was held scoreless in 12 minutes in his return. Michigan State dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Nittany Lions 45-26.

Michigan State will travel to Bloomington to square off against the Hoosiers on Saturday before hosting Ohio State next Wednesday.

The Big Ten will be a far cry from a cakewalk this year, with three teams in the top-five and four in the top-25 in the nation. The Indiana game will be played at 2 p.m. and will air on CBS.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/01/02/dawson-stars-in-return-as-spartans-rally-past-nittany-lions/#sthash.SpWnY7Rc.dpuf


Appling Shines as Spartans Rout New Orleans

DEC 28 – Coming off a huge win in Austin, the Spartans (11-1) were definitely at risk of having a letdown game against the New Orleans Privateers (3-5). With Branden Dawson ruled out with a shin injury and Matt Costello still not able to play, this game could have looked similar to the Columbia matchup.

Michigan State was shaky to start, committing six turnovers in the first eight minutes. Gary Harris missed his first four shots, and the team started out 3-10 from the field. The Privateers held a slim 10-9 lead at that point, but it was the last time they would be ahead of the Spartans.

Michigan State proceeded to go on a 17-3 run, capped off by a transition dunk by Keith Appling. New Orleans had no answer for the Spartans’ high-powered attack and simply could not keep up with the number five-ranked team in the nation. The combination of Harris, Appling, and Adreian Payne combined for 63 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists. The Spartans went on to win the game 101-48.

The Spartans out rebounded the Privateers 54-31, but Izzo was still disappointed in Payne’s performance, saying, “Adreian didn’t focus in early.” He continued, “He had seven rebounds, but it should’ve been 15.” The team shot 54.5% from the field, including 13-25 from beyond the arc.

Here are three factors that decided the game:

1. Appling Recovers From Tough Two-Game Stretch

Keith struggled mightily in his last two games for the Spartans. He only scored eight against North Florida and four against Texas, shooting a combined 4-19 in the span. Coach Izzo said that Appling’s wrist has been sore ever since the North Carolina game, where he took a nasty spill and used his wrist to break his fall.

Appling started off hot and never cooled down. He scored seven of Michigan State’s first nine points to kick things off. He led all scorers with 16 points and six dimes at the half. With Harris struggling with his shot early, Appling had to step up in order for the Spartans to pull away from the Privateers.

Keith finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Izzo raved about Appling, calling him the “biggest thrill of the night.” If the Spartans hit more of their open shots in their first half, Appling could’ve easily had a double-double.

2. Spartans Didn’t Miss a Step Without Dawson, Costello

With the combination of coming off a huge road win and two starters not playing, the Spartans could’ve found themselves in big trouble against a pesky New Orleans squad. But Denzel Valentine and other players stepped up and played a huge role. Valentine started in place of Dawson, scoring 10 points and adding 13 rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes on the court.

Alex Gauna also pitched in for MSU, posting six points and five rebounds in only 10 minutes of work. He added a block and an assist, but was limited due to foul trouble. Travis Trice scored five with three assists, but seemed sluggish. According to Coach Izzo, Trice was “sicker than a dog” during the game. Michigan State’s bench scored 22 points on 50% shooting. Coach Izzo is known for squeezing production out of his players, and he certainly did that tonight.

Izzo was pleased with the performance of his bench. He said, “I feel like Mark [Dantonio] with his quarterbacks.” He said he would be comfortable with playing “seven, eight, nine, or ten guys” in the rotation.

3. Spartans Sprinting to B1G Season

Michigan State’s final tune-up game couldn’t have gone any better. The Spartans won by their largest margin of the season and look to get Costello and Dawson back in time for conference play. MSU kicks off the Big Ten season at Penn State on New Year’s Eve. Coach Izzo is not a fan of playing on New Year’s Eve. He said that Penn State is much improved, and “we have our work cut out for us.”

Izzo said in his press conference said that Costello was cleared to play, but wasn’t yet in game shape. He fully expects Matt to play at Penn State.

Branden Dawson, meanwhile, was kicked in the shin during a drill in practice. His leg swelled up but there was no bone damage. Although Dawson didn’t play, he still made a big impact on the game.

Izzo said, “He was a way better coach than I was.”

Dawson is also expected to play against Penn State.


Payne Has Career Game as Spartans Down Longhorns

DEC 23 – Erwin Center was rocking on Saturday, as the upstart Texas Longhorns hosted number five-ranked Sparty. Rick Barnes’ squad was looking to avenge their 67-56 loss from last year in East Lansing.

Texas surprised many experts this year, starting the season 10-1 with an impressive win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. MSU came into the game shorthanded, with Matt Costello out due to illness and a banged-up Gary Harris coming off the bench.The Longhorns raced out of the gate, taking an early 11-4 lead in the first five minutes. But two quick buckets by Adreian Payne cut the gap to two. With Harris coming off the bench, Denzel Valentine was placed in the starting lineup and Travis Trice was also used heavily in the rotation.

There were questions about how Gary would play on a bum ankle, but his first basket erased those doubts. He exploded off that ankle along the baseline and finished with an acrobatic reverse layup.

MSU was in foul trouble for most of the first half, and Texas capitalized. They pounded the paint and out-rebounded the Spartans 20-18. With Alex Gauna barely seeing the court and Costello not playing, the Spartans were extremely thin in the post.

Texas’ big man Cameron Ridley had his way with whoever tried to guard him, scoring 13 and adding five boards in the first half. A last second shot by the Longhorns gave them a slim 38-36 lead at the half.

Travis Trice provided a much-needed spark off the bench for the Spartans in the first half, scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting from the field. Payne was hot from the outside, scoring 14 in the first frame on 6-7 shooting, to go along with two three-pointers. Harris was more of a distributor in the first, tallying four dimes.

The Spartans’ defense held the Longhorns to 35 percent first half shooting from the field, but Texas got to the charity stripe 13 times, converting on 11.

Adreian Payne continued his dominance in the second half. He was able to back down a much heavier Cameron Ridley on multiple occasions, and Texas was forced to double team him in the post. Texas had foul trouble in the second half, putting MSU in the bonus within the first eight minutes.

Payne picked up his third foul with just over 12 to play in the game, forcing Izzo to put him on the bench. But he returned two minutes later.

With about 10 minutes remaining in the game, MSU began a 14-4 run to take a 68-58 lead with just over five to play. MSU kept getting to the line and were actually making most of their free throws. MSU kept pulling away late, and with just over three minutes left, Valentine went on a fast break, lobbed the ball off the backboard for Dawson to flush down a commanding 13-point lead.

Texas could not cut the lead past 10, and MSU came away with the impressive road victory, 92-78. The Spartans heated up in the second half, scoring 56 points.

Payne had a career game in Austin, finishing with 33 points on 10-13 shooting from the field and 11-12 from the stripe. MSU as a team shot nearly 82 percent from the line. Harris showed that the ankle was not an issue, scoring 19 points with five assists. Dawson was a handful in the paint, with five offensive rebounds and numerous tip-ins. Trice added 11 points off the bench and Valentine had eight and 11.

Texas’ Cameron Ridley had a quiet second half, tallying only four points in the second frame. Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor scored 16 and dished out five assists. The Spartans out rebounded the Longhorns by 10 and held them to 39 percent shooting. The Spartans were efficient from the field, shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field.

The Spartans (10-1) appeared unfazed in their first true road game of the season. MSU has New Orleans up next at the Breslin Center on the 28th.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/12/23/payne-has-career-game-as-spartans-down-longhorns/#sthash.ycY9R0Ss.dpuf

Scouting Report: North Carolina Tar Heels

DEC 3 – In what could be the biggest challenge of the season since Kentucky, the North Carolina Tar Heels come to the Breslin Center on Wednesday as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The two teams will meet for the fifth time in 15 years.

North Carolina has had an interesting season, beating No. 3 Louisville but also losing to Belmont and UAB. Take a look at this box of chocolates from North Carolina:

Head Coach: Roy Williams (286-80, 11th season)

Last season: 24-10, lost in Third Round of NCAA Tournament

This season: 4-2

Key Players: Marcus Paige, James Michael McAdoo, P.J Hairston (suspended)

What an interesting season the Tar Heels have had so far. They have shown glimpses of brilliance and moments (or full games) of ineptitude. UNC came into the season ranked No. 12 in the nation, only to lose at home to a weak Belmont team, 83-80. They also dropped a road game against Alabama-Birmingham 63-59. In those two losses, North Carolina shot a combined 26-59 (44%) from the free-throw line.

In their impressive win against a highly-ranked Louisville squad, the Tar Heels shot 26-38 from the stripe. Is there a pattern here?

If the Spartans force UNC to earn their points at the line, their chances could be high.

James Michael-McAdoo and Marcus Paige are the leaders of the Tar Heels. McAdoo, a 6-9 junior, is averaging 13.8 points and six rebounds per game. Paige, a 6-1 sophomore, is averaging over 20 points per game while shooting 50% from the field. In their win over Louisville, Paige exploded for 32 points while shooting 9-12 from the field. McAdoo struggled in that game, scoring only nine points on 3-11 shooting. In UNC’s recent loss to UAB, the two combined for only 19 points on 9-29 shooting. Only two North Carolina players scored in double figures in that game. Keith Appling will have his hands full defensively with Paige, and Branden Dawson will most likely match up with McAdoo.

Last season, P.J Hairston was a big factor in the Tar Heels’ success. He led the team in scoring, but has not played a single minute this year due to suspension. According to the Associated Press, he had been cited twice during the offseason while driving a rental vehicle that had been linked to a party promoter, who was also a felon. This raised the possibility of an improper benefits violation. Hairston’s status for Wednesday’s game is still uncertain, but he would provide a huge lift for the Tar Heels if he were declared eligible.

North Carolina leads the all-time series 11-3, winning the last six games in a row. The last time these two teams met, the Tar Heels got the better of the Spartans, winning 67-55. The game was played as part of the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. In 2009, North Carolina also beat MSU in the National Championship game at Ford Field.

My prediction for the game: The Tar Heels stay with the Spartans most of the game. It will be a high-scoring affair, but the Spartans with the home-court advantage will get the win 84-76. The game can be seen at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/12/03/scouting-report-north-carolina-tar-heels/#sthash.xUDAQU29.dpuf

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.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/20/appling-leads-past-pilots/#sthash.B0SQCm8A.dpuf

Scouting Report: Columbia Lions

NOV 14, 2013 –

The Columbia Lions visit the Breslin Center on Friday night at 9 p.m., as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Here is a quick rundown on the Lions as they prepare to take on the Spartans:

Head Coach: Kyle Smith (42-45, fourth season)

Last Season: 12-16

This season: 1-1

Key Players: Grant Mullins, Cory Osetkowski

The Columbia Lions come into this game as heavy underdogs. The Ivy Leaguers have virtually no chance against a soon-to-be number one ranked Michigan State team. Head coach Kyle Smith has done fairly well in his tenure at Columbia. 12-16 may be considered a disappointing season for a Big Ten team. But for a small school like Columbia, they are pleased.

Last year, the Lions were giant killers, knocking off two eventual NCAA tourney teams in Villanova (75-57) and Harvard (78-63). Columbia finished last in the Ivy League with a 4-10 record. However, they gave up the second fewest points in the Ivy League.

Two key players to watch out for are sophomore Grant Mullins and Cory Osetkowski. Mullins is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 18 points per game. He’s shooting at an amazing 69% from the field and is 5-9 from behind the arc. At 6’3”, he will most likely be matched up against Gary Harris. Junior Osetkowski is the tallest player on the Columbia roster at 6’11”. He’s averaging 12.5 points and seven rebounds per game this season. Matt Costello or Adreian Payne will most likely draw this matchup. I don’t expect either player to struggle defensively or on the boards against Osetkowski.

This season, the Lions are 1-1. They came out victorious in their first game against Maryland-Eastern Shore 73-54. Their second game they fell to mighty Manhattan 71-70.

Columbia might seem like a weak matchup for Michigan State, but the Spartans are coming off a huge win over Kentucky. Too often, teams have letdown games after a huge victory, which could be Columbia’s only chance of winning. They are overmatched in every single position and don’t have nearly the depth of MSU. The Spartans proved on Tuesday that they deserve to be the number one team in the nation, and absolutely dominated the Wildcats. The game should have never been as close as it ended up being, which further proves how good MSU really is.

There is no telling what the Spartans will do to the Ivy League cellar-dwellers. This game could get ugly.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/14/scouting-report-columbia-lions/#sthash.zagRW3Nm.dpuf

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.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/08/2013-14-season-preview/#sthash.YTNlVTC0.dpuf

Opinion: Branden Dawson is the Spartans’ X-Factor

Branden Dawson’s freshman season ended during the final regular season game of the year versus Ohio State, when he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament. That injury changed the trajectory of Dawson’s career. Instead of spending the summer of his sophomore year developing his game or possibly preparing for his rookie season in the NBA, he was forced to rehab his knee.

 Dawson saw his production drop in his sophomore campaign, going from 16.4 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted to 13.7. Although he was healthy, the mental aspect of recovering from such a serious injury still lingered.

“The mental aspect was hard. When I came back from my ACL injury, there were times where I was thinking too much, and there were times where I went in for a dunk and I just went in and just laid it up. The mental aspect, it was very tough on me. I was going out there, and I was thinking a lot,” Dawson said in an interview with Spartan Nation Radio.

This prevented Dawson from having the breakout season everyone expected from him. If he hadn’t injured his knee, he would probably be in the NBA right now, but a slight letdown of a season made Dawson think twice about making the leap to the pros.

Now entering his junior year, Dawson says he is “100 percent now,” and is due for that breakout year. This is why he will be the Spartans’ x-factor. Without having to worry about his knee, Dawson was able to spend his summer working on his game, especially his jump shot. Although he shot 53% from the field last year, that number was down four percent from his freshman campaign. Branden Dawson has not made a three point shot in a Michigan State uniform, but this year looks to be different. He is so proud of his new jump shot that he posted a video on his instagram account of him shooting.


Dawson has improved so much over the summer that coach Tom Izzo had this to say about the junior in an interview with Spartan Nation Radio:

“This summer he’s improved his shot. He’s improved his body. I think he’s had the best summer of his life, and I think he’ll be ready for hopefully a breakout junior year.”

Everybody can talk about how important Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, and Keith Appling will be for Michigan State this year, but Branden Dawson might be the player that could carry the team from very good to the best in the nation. With an improved jumper and better ball-handling skills on the wing, Dawson could spread out opposing defenses and open up driving lanes for the guards. Assistant coach Dan Fife said this about Dawson in an MLive article:

“Branden’s got huge hands, but one thing that when he came in, he was a good ball-handler,” Fife said. “He really was. I think he’s working to become a great one.”

The 6’6” junior is one of the best defenders on the team. Dawson led the Spartans in steals last season with 57. His defensive rating was the sixth best in the Big Ten according to sports-reference.com. He had 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes last season, which was second among all wing players in the nation according to draftexpress.com. Dawson was also named the Big Ten’s Most Entertaining Player and a preseason third-team All-Big Ten selection by Lindy’s College Basketball Magazine.

This season, draftexpress.com has Dawson as the sixth best junior in the nation. He’s on the second best team in the nation according to the coaches poll. If Michigan State wants to make it past the Sweet 16 this year, they will need a better Branden Dawson. He had a disappointing showing in the NCAA Tournament, averaging four points and 4.7 rebounds per game. This was another big factor in Dawson’s decision not to go to the NBA. His poor performance in the postseason hurt his draft stock.

Michigan State’s roster is star-studded, with three players almost guaranteed to make the NBA, not including Dawson. With so much talent on the court with him, he could fly under the radar of opposing defenses and explode for huge nights. Don’t be surprised to see Dawson post a couple double-doubles this season.

This year, there will be a new Branden Dawson. He’s hungry to prove that he is ready for the next level.  He wants to prove that he’s back. The knee injury is just a thing of the past. This will be a more confident, high-flying Branden Dawson who will dunk on you without a second thought. He is Michigan State’s X-factor.

-Original link to article: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/02/opinion-branden-dawson-is-the-spartans-x-factor/#sthash.fxGeapUx.dpuf