What a difference one game can make! The Spartans did indeed carry their inspired second half play over to this game and even added some pleasant surprises to the mix. Alex Gauna played meaningful minutes and actually contributed(albeit not much defensively), Payne played with attitude(4 blocks, 8 boards), and Denzel Valentine led the team in assists coming off the bench(4). In the national spotlight and travel weary, the Spartans dug deep to come through against a very talented Kansas team. It’s fairly difficult to be anything other than elated with regard to this bunch after seeing that effort.
Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne both did a much better job of forcing people out of the paint and not allowing any easy buckets. Both players collected eight rebounds and Payne did most of his damage early with some ferocious blocks and inspired play before a little foul trouble and a tweaked ankle slowed him some. Nix struggled a bit in the early going but when they needed the big man he stepped up late with some big plays prompting this from Jameson after the game:
The Spartans needed that sort of effort from their frontcourt players but Keith Appling was not to be outdone as he led the team in scoring with 19 points, including a dagger of a three-pointer late and the game sealing acrobatic layup in traffic. He wasn’t alone in his efforts from the backcourt as Gary Harris continues to impress on both ends of the floor and the aforementioned Valentine, who was pressed into service at the point due to the injuries to Trice, wowed everyone with his skills as a floor general. Tom Izzo did mention Valentine and Magic in the same breath earlier in the year and it’s possible he wasn’t engaging in hyperbole. That kid looks sharp at the point and he will only get better as the team gets more cohesive.
Appling Takes It To The Rack (Photo: Paul Abell, US Presswire)
I am going to wrap this one up as I am pressed for time and I am tempted to continue gushing about every player on this team ad nauseum which isn’t a wise idea so early in the season. If you aren’t excited about this year’s squad though,you must be one who doesn’t care for basketball. They are on the young side but that doesn’t matter much when it comes to hoops.
Jameson is working on a post about Appling so look for that one soon as I find what he has done so far to be quite interesting. The next game is the 18th against Texas Southern and I’m sure the team will be glad to be home again. Take care, all.