Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 12/16/12
EAST LANSING –March 20, 1989, that was the last time that the Michigan State Spartans scored a basket in the historic Jenison Field House. Flash forward 23 years later and the Spartans are back, and the result didn’t change. On that day, Michigan State defeated Wichita State 79-67 in the second round of the NIT. Today, the #19 Spartans (9-2) defeated Division II Tuskegee (1-5) 92-56 in a game that didn’t have as big of implications, but could be a turning point for the Spartans as they head into the Big Ten season. Keith Appling matched his career-high with 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. The junior point guard also knocked down 9-of-11 free throws adding to the Spartans astounding 84 percent shooting from the charity stripe. Appling seemed to have everything going for him tonight, something that has been somewhat inconsistent over the past couple of games. “Appling did some good things,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “He pulled up, took some short shots, hit some threes, and made some layups.” While Appling had it going early on – scoring six of the team’s first 14 points – the Spartans as a collective were struggling for the last 10 minutes of the first half. After taking a 19-6 lead with 12:43 left in the first half, Tuskegee went on a nine point run to cut the Michigan State lead to four. The Spartans and the Golden Tigers traded baskets for the final eight minutes, and MSU only went into the half with a seven point lead. Izzo was concerned that this past week of final exams and the reunion game festivities that took place last night at Jenison would have some type of effect on his team. Keith Appling. (AP PHOTO) “It was a challenging week with everything that was going on,” Izzo stated. “I was worried about how we’d perform and my worries came true in the first half.” Fortunately for Izzo, the Spartans were able to go on a 20-8 run in the first seven minutes of the second half, and from there they never let up. Senior Derrick Nix dominated the glass in the second half with seven rebounds – finished the game with 11 points and 13 rebounds — and stated that he set new heights for himself against Tuskegee. “I feel like tonight was the hardest I ever played,” Nix said. “Kearney came up to me and said, ‘You set a new standard Nix. You can’t play like you did no more, you gotta play like as hard as you did tonight.’ I say I play as hard as I did because tonight was the first night I got tired the whole season. When I came off I needed water.” Aside from Nix’s double-double effort, Adreian Payne added 12 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes. “Our big’s were our bright spot,” Izzo said. “Our guards were a bit of a disappointment.” However, Tuskegee head coach Leon Douglas was impressed with Izzo’s team, and he believes that they are better than the rest of the country gives them credit for. “They aren’t 19 in the country for no reason,” Douglas said, a former NBA first-round pick of the Detroit Pistons. “They are more or less a top 10 team.” The Spartans are gearing up for Big Ten play as they face Bowling Green on the road and Texas at home before they head into Big Ten season, and according to Izzo, he doesn’t think his team is where they need to be quite yet.
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