Keith Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half as No. 10 Michigan State smothered No. 22 Wisconsin on Thursday night, opening up the second half with an 16-2 run over the first eight minutes to take a 21 point lead en route to a 58-43 win over the Badgers.
The Spartans needed a game like this after losing three in a row, and not just because they finally got a win. They needed Appling to break out of the dreadful slump he had been in for three-and-a-half games. Appling scored 18 points in those three losses. He had eight assists and nine turnovers during that stretch. He shot 5-23 from the floor and snapped a stretch of 17 straight missed threes by going 1-7 on Thursday.
Moving forward, that is what matters.
Because it doesn’t really matter that Michigan State’s win means they still have a shot at winning a share of the Big Ten regular season title, or that this win means that they will get one of those top four seeds in the Big Ten tournament as long as they don’t do something dumb like lose to Northwestern at home.
What matters is that Appling snapped out of his funk. At the end of the day, he’s the most important player for the Spartans because a) he’s streaky and inconsistent; b) when he’s playing well, he’s really good at being the kind of dynamic playmaker that the Spartans need; and c) no one else on the Spartans can do what he can do at that spot.
They can’t win in March without Appling.
So regardless of what the score was tonight, the takeaway from Thursday is that Appling got it going offensively.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.
Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.
Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.
The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.
John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.
We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.
For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.
Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.