Adreian Payne returns as No. 9 Michigan State rolls past Penn State

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No. 9 Michigan State has been affected by injuries as much as any team in America this season. Branden Dawson’s out with a broken hand, Adreian Payne’s missed time with a foot injury and Keith Appling has a right wrist issue, and those are just three of the injuries that Tom Izzo’s had to account for this season.

On Thursday night the Spartans were without Appling and Dawson, but Panye did return to the court for his first action since a January 7 win over Ohio State. Payne would score 12 points in the 82-67 win over Penn State, with Kenny Kaminski and Denzel Valentine among the standouts for the Spartans.

Kaminski, who’s made multiple visits to Tom Izzo’s doghouse this season, put together his best outing of the season with 19 points in 21 minutes of action. The redshirt freshman connected on seven of his nine shots from the field, shooting 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. And as a team Michigan State made 12 three-pointers, the most they’ve made in a conference game since 2008.

Valentine, known for his versatility and ability to play multiple positions on the floor, tallied 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to help Michigan State account for a 5-for-16 night from Gary Harris. With Appling out of the lineup Valentine became a more important piece for Michigan State on Thursday night, and he rose to the challenge. While some may look at the opponent (Penn State) and decide that there isn’t much to be gained from the result, there’s also the need to have players such as Kaminski and Valentine gain the confidence needed to be key figures moving forward.

Outside of Tim Frazier (9-for-14 FG, 22 points) Penn State struggled to get much going against the Michigan State defense, and the Spartans supplemented their solid defensive effort with a 46% night from the field. At some point  (hopefully) Michigan State will return to full strength, but they’ll still need contributions from all members of the rotation.

With Appling out of the lineup and Payne looking to regain his form after missing nearly a month of action, other stepped up to help the Spartans take care of Penn State.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.