Appling, Spartans rebound with win

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 08, 2013
Keith Appling bounced back in time to give No. 10 Michigan State a shot to share the Big Ten title. Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help the Spartans beat No. 22 Wisconsin 58-43 on Thursday night and stay in the race for a piece of the conference championship. ''The only sad part for me is we had a chance to have destiny in our hands,'' Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after his team snapped a three-game losing streak. The Spartans (23-7, 12-5) moved into a three-way tie for second with Michigan and Ohio State. The trio trails conference-leading Indiana with one game left in the regular season. The Hoosiers can claim the Big Ten title outright with a win Sunday in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. If they lose, Michigan would earn a piece of the title and the Spartans and Buckeyes would have an opportunity to make it a four-way tie. The Spartans close the regular season Sunday night at home against Northwestern after Ohio State hosts Illinois and the Wolverines face Indiana. Izzo said his mentor, former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote, wouldn't want him to root for rival Michigan to win in any circumstance. ''I'm going to pull for Michigan State,'' Izzo said. ''And, I'm going to pull for (senior) Derrick Nix.'' The Badgers (20-10, 11-6) shot 29.4 percent while falling to fifth place after Purdue handed them their most lopsided setback at home in more than seven years. Coach Bo Ryan, though, insisted he wasn't disappointed his team missed out on a chance to play for part of the championship. ''With this team and what they've done, I'm not trading them,'' Ryan said. ''These guys have been working extremely hard.'' Michigan State broke open a close slugfest with a 16-0 run early in the second half, taking a 21-point lead on Appling's three-point play. The junior point guard had been held to single digits in each of the last three games, but he bounced back in a big way. Appling scored more points against the Badgers than he scored in the previous three games combined. ''Seeing Keith smile, that made my day,'' Izzo said. The coach also was delighted when the Spartans showed some grit against the hard-nosed Badgers. Adreian Payne landed on his back after missing a dunk and while on the floor in pain, he grabbed a loose ball and called timeout. Izzo greeted Payne with a huge hug near the sideline and the crowd stood to give the junior forward a rousing ovation. ''It's fun to see somebody grow as a person; he would've never done that as a freshman,'' Izzo said. ''That kind of reminded me of the teams I used to have. It got the crowd going, it got the players going and it got the coaches going.'' Michigan State freshman Gary Harris, who started the night leading the team in scoring, was scoreless in the first half on 0-of-6 shooting and finished with 11 points. Payne had nine points and 11 rebounds. Wisconsin didn't have a scorer in double digits until Ben Brust made two free throws with 1:22 left to reach 10 points. Ryan Evans and Sam Dekker each scored nine for the Badgers. The first half, perhaps predictably, was not pretty. Both teams missed exactly two-thirds of their shots, and not one player had more than six points by halftime. Wisconsin had eight turnovers in the first half, almost matching its nation-low average of 9.4, and finished with 17 turnovers. ''They were jumping passing lanes and every time we tried to attack, they were pretty aggressive with their hands,'' Ryan said. ''If you're not getting a call or two in there, then a team is just going to continue to be aggressive.'' The Spartans maintained the lead until Mike Bruesewitz made a 3-pointer to put Wisconsin ahead 12-10 with 9:09 left in the first half. Then, the Badgers were scoreless for almost 6 minutes. Travis Trice's 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer put Michigan State up 25-18. ''Our defense was unbelievable,'' Izzo said. After Jared Berggren opened the second half with a shot that got the Badgers within five, they went more than 7 minutes without a point. ''We just can't have those spells,'' Ryan said. The Spartans took advantage, building a 41-20 lead on Appling's three-point play. ''He missed a couple shots early, but as soon as he saw the first one go in, he was good,'' Trice said. By the time Wisconsin finally scored again, on Dekker's first field goal with 11:55 to go, it was too late. In a 49-47 loss to Michigan State in January, the Badgers made just 29.6 percent of their shots for their lowest mark in almost two years. It was even worse in the rematch, recording their lowest percentage since they shot 29.3 percent on March 6, 1999, in a 56-41 loss to the Spartans. ''We're just a little tight,'' Brust said.
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