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.