EAST LANSING — Led by 13 points and six assists from Keith Appling, the Michigan State Spartans (6-2) pounded Nicholls St. (1-3) 84-39 at home.
The Spartans were looking forward to a result like this, especially after coming off a disappointing loss against Miami on Wednesday in which they struggled on the offensive end.
“The good of playing a tough schedule a lot of times is it benefits at the end, the bad is sometimes guys never get some confidence,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “We needed a game like this. We needed a game where we shot pretty well.”
One thing’s for sure, the Spartans looked a lot more fluent on the offensive end of the floor today. They weren’t as stagnant as they have been in the past two weeks and they were able to get a lot of guys involved.
11 players scored for the Spartans this afternoon, four of which were in double-digits.
Freshman Matt Costello defends Nicholls State’s JaMarkus Horace. (AP PHOTO)
Adreian Payne was one of those four players scoring in double-figures as he had 10 points and also added 12 rebounds in 21 minutes. The junior big man has accepted a new role on the team, as he is now coming off the bench — today was his second time this season — and he thinks that this move has benefited his game.
“I get to see how we’re playing, see how the refs are calling the game,” Payne said about coming off the bench. “It’s helping me stay out of foul trouble.”
An 11-man rotation is not ideal for Izzo, and he is soon looking to shorten that rotation to eight or nine guys.
“We got six guys in there for sure, I think with Trice we have seven guys.” Izzo said. “It’s the Gauna’s, and the Kearney’ s, and right now Costello’s, and Byrd’s that gotta work their way in, and somebody may work their way out. Each of them brings something we need.”
Three of the guys that are on the chopping block for serious minutes made a case for themselves at some point in this game.
Kearney had five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes while Gauna added six points and two rebounds in nine minutes. Byrd didn’t see much time early, but finished the game strong with six points in the final three minutes.
Two guys that don’t have to worry about not getting minutes are freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine.
Valentine and Harris were both very productive on the floor tonight as they both had 11 points, but both added a little something extra other than scoring.
Harris had four rebounds and three steals to go along with his 11 points, and Valentine added three assists, three steals, and three rebounds.
However, while Valentine was impressive in his 23 minutes today he got a little wake up call from Nicholls St. JaMarkus Horace early in the game.
Valentine was the recipient of a Horace monstrous slam that had the MSU bench, and crowd, smiling and chuckling.
“After I got dunked on I was like, ‘uh uh,’ I was determined to score.” Valentine said.
The freshman was able to redeem himself with a smooth jumper from deep after the embarrassing posterizing dunk.
Valentine added: “After Keith threw me the ball I shot it and it went in, I was happy. I felt a little bit better. Hopefully that doesn’t get on ‘ Top 10 ’.”
Nicholls St. had only eight players dressed — as there were more coaches on the bench than players — as they were missing their two starters Fred Hunter and Lachlan Prest. Regardless, even though Hunter is a proven scorer, it was clear that this team didn’t belong on the floor with MSU.
They did have some talented players in Shane Rillieux and T.J. Carpenter who combined for 19 of the teams 39 points. Rillieux had eight points and four rebounds in 39 minutes.
Nicholls St. was the first of a favoring homestretch of games for MSU, and next up on their schedule is Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
On a side note, sophomore point guard Travis Trice who played in his second game back after missing five games with a broken nose and concussion is having trouble adjusting to his new facemask.
Trice has been told that he will have to wear the mask for at least two weeks, and it’s something that he isn’t fond of thus far.
“I never wore headbands or wristbands, I usually like to keep it clean,” Trice said about his new facial accessory. “I haven’t really got used to playing with it, I don’t really like it at all. It’s constantly moving around and as you sweat it get’s worse.”
Trice scored nine points in his return vs. Miami but struggled tonight as he only had three points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field.