Minnesota v Michigan State

No. 5 Michigan State, without Adreian Payne, survives in overtime

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Health and Michigan State just haven’t belonged in the same sentence this season.

The Spartans have been banged up all year long, with the latest injury issue being the sprained foot on top of plantar fasciitis that All-American caliber center Adreian Payne has been dealing with this week.

Payne didn’t play as Minnesota came to visit on Saturday, and Michigan State sure could’ve used him, especially early on. The Gophers were on fire early, hitting seven first half threes and building a lead that reached double-figures in the final minutes of the period.

But Michigan State woke up late, riding the coattails of Gary Harris and Keith Appling — who combined for 43 points and six assists — to an 86-75 win in overtime. Kenny Kaminski provided a huge spark off the bench in Payne’s absence, hitting five threes and scoring 15 points. Minnesota always plays Michigan State tough, and winning any game in conference play when you’re short-handed is a good win.

It’s tough to argue here if you’re Tom Izzo or Michigan State.

But I will say this: this is the second straight game that the Spartans were unable to put away down the stretch, both of which came at home. They blew a 17-point lead to Ohio State in the final seven minutes on Tuesday night, a game where they turned the ball over nine times during that stretch. Against Minnesota, the Spartans were up six with 2:41 left in regulation. They were still up five with 22 seconds left and likely would have avoided overtime had Gary Harris not gone 0-for-2 from the foul line with 12 seconds left.

I still think that Michigan State is the best team in the country not named Arizona, but that doesn’t mean that this is a comforting trend.

PHOTO: Ohio State’s new LeBron James shoe display

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.

The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.