Tag: Keith Appling


Big Ten Tournament: Defense carries No. 22 Michigan State to title


One day after shooting better than 50% from both the field and from beyond the arc in a win over No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 22 Michigan State got the job done defensively in their 69-55 win over No. 8 Michigan to grab the Big Ten tournament title. Michigan, which led the Big Ten in both field goal and three-point percentage, shot 31% from the field  and 6-for-23 from beyond the arc.

Michigan State did a very good job of taking away the ball screen and dribble handoff situations in which Michigan can be so lethal when allowed to get going. Nik Stauskas scored 17 points but he was made to work awfully hard for those points, doing so on 4-for-15 shooting. And with Derrick Walton Jr. being the only other Michigan player to score in double figures, this proved to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome against a balanced Michigan State offense.

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Adreian Payne (nine rebounds) scored 18 points and Branden Dawson and Gary Harris adding 15 apiece for Michigan State, which made up for a poor afternoon from beyond the arc (2-for-17) by making 67.6% of its two-point attempts. Michigan State is second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, making 39.8% of its attempts, so Sunday’s outing isn’t a typical one for this group. And if the Spartans can continue to work the ball inside as they did against Michigan, they’ll be fine offensively.

Injuries have been an issue all season long for Michigan State, but with Dawson and Payne at full strength (and Keith Appling closer to it) this weekend  the Spartans were able to put together three quality performances. There will still be skeptics who make the claim that the “when the Spartans are full strength” cries are nothing more than excuses; that all teams have to navigate health issues throughout the course of a season.

But to make that statement is to ignore the obvious in regards to Michigan State, that this is a different group than the one we saw for much of Big Ten play. And with that being the case, Tom Izzo has himself a complete team capable of playing deep into the NCAA tournament.

Big Ten Tournament: No. 22 Michigan State takes another step forward in win over No. 12 Wisconsin


It’s been a familiar refrain all season long: when No. 22 Michigan State gets back to full strength they’re a serious national title contender. But as the season wore on injuries continued to add up, resulting in a lack of on-court cohesion that left more than a few skeptical that it would ever happen.

Michigan State’s play in Indianapolis this weekend may convert some of those skeptics, with the Spartans (25-8, 12-6) knocking off No. 12 Wisconsin by the final score of 83-75 to advance to Sunday’s Big Ten title game.

The Spartans shot 56% from the field and 7-for-13 from beyond the arc against Wisconsin (26-7, 12-6) , taking control of the game in the first half with their ability to not only string together stops but get out and run off of Badger misses as well. As a result, Tom Izzo’s team was able to find quality looks early in the shot clock as they kept Wisconsin from getting set in its half-court defense. And for a team that at times struggles with defending dribble penetration, this proved to be problematic for Wisconsin.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology

Six players, including all five starters, reached double figures for Michigan State with Adreian Payne’s 18 points leading the way. The balanced scoring was a good sign moving forward for Michigan State, as was the fact that they committed just eight turnovers on the afternoon.

In Michigan State’s final four regular season games the Spartans averaged 15.3 turnovers per contest, going 1-3 as a result with the lone win coming against an Iowa team that’s been reeling of late. In the Big Ten tournament the Spartans are averaging just nine turnovers per game, and their assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7 is a slight improvement over their ratio in regular season conference play (1.4).

Keith Appling (ten points, six assists) and Travis Trice (11 points, four assists) were responsible for ten of Michigan State’s 15 assists against Wisconsin, with each committing just one turnover. Wisconsin isn’t a team that will force a high number of turnovers, as opponents committed just 9.3 per game in Big Ten play, but there’s a need to be patient and not get into too much of a hurry against the Badgers. Michigan State was able to remain under control for much of the afternoon, and the play of their guards was a key reason why.

These games in Indianapolis represent valuable opportunities for a rotation that hasn’t had as much time to develop chemistry as Izzo would hope for during the season to become a more cohesive unit, and the Spartans have taken advantage in wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin. Sunday’s final against No. 8 Michigan will help as well, and the Michigan State team many held out hope would show up at some point is beginning to round into form at the right time.

Late-game offensive execution costs No. 22 Michigan State in Columbus


For much of this season the prevailing theme regarding No. 22 Michigan State is that once completely healthy, the Spartans could be one of the favorites to win the national title. With guard Keith Appling and forwards Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne all in the fold alongside guard Gary Harris, Michigan State has a rotation that’s as talented and experienced as any in the country.

Michigan State showed glimpses of this potential at various points in Sunday’s 69-67 loss at Ohio State, but their offensive struggles down the stretch resulted in the Spartans’ sixth conference defeat.

Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) didn’t score a point in the final four minutes and 30 seconds, missing all four of their field goal attempts and committing three turnovers. Obviously the Buckeyes (23-8, 10-8) deserve some credit for this, as they are very sold defensive team. But when forced to execute in the half-court down the stretch Michigan State struggled, and this something they’ve got to clean in the days leading up to the Big Ten tournament.

Michigan State turned the ball over on 24.2% of its possessions against Ohio State, the fourth consecutive game in which the Spartans have turned the ball over on at least 21% of their possessions. Michigan State’s record: 1-3. Payne was responsible for five of those turnovers, and Appling finished Sunday’s game with six assists and three turnovers. After seemingly snapping out of his slump in the win over No. 24 Iowa, Appling made just one of his four shot attempts and scored two points.

Part of that was the Ohio State defense, with Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott both being capable defenders. But Appling also didn’t consistently show the assertion that was present in the second half of Thursday’s win, and that has to change heading into postseason play. Sunday’s performance had its positives however, with Michigan State making ten three-pointers and shooting 51.9% from the field in the first half. But they weren’t as effective in the second half as they were in the first, resulting in a tough loss in Columbus.

There’s no reason to panic however, and earning a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament gets a group that’s been banged up for much of the season an extra day’s rest. And it isn’t like the Spartans don’t have the talent needed to rectify the issues they struggled with in Columbus.