Wednesday afternoon, news broke that two Michigan State players got into a physical altercation at the Nittany Lion Inn on the Penn State campus.
Neither Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne started that night due to their actions, but Payne did play a big role in Michigan State’s 81-72 win over Penn State.
Payne watched from the bench until the 16:37 mark of the second half. When the 6-foot-10 junior checked in, he dominated for a career-high 20 points, adding seven boards. Payne was aggressive on the offensive end, taking 10 free throw attempts (making seven of them), which is more free throw attempts than his previous three games combined.
Tom Izzo said he isn’t a fan of having his players get in to a scuffle, but he did acknowledge it may have provided a spark for his junior forward, according to Mike Griffith of MLive.com.
“Everybody grows up at a different point; sometimes controversy brings it out, and you gotta say, `I’m changing, or I’m not changing,’ ” said Izzo on Thursday. “For (Payne) it was a day he had to realize this is ridiculous. You can’t do dumb things and you have to listen to what other people say to you, comprehend it, and go to work.
“He stayed focused, you notice he didn’t get as tired, and he’d never played 17 out of 20 minutes in a half in his whole life.”
Could a fight with a roommate turn into a positive for Payne and the Spartans?
It’s a scary thought. The Big Ten is going to be a grind this season. There’s no doubt about that. Izzo and the Spartans are going to need to rely on guys like Payne and if he can provide this sort of production on a consistent basis, Michigan State will be right back in the mix atop the Big Ten.
If this could be the emergence of Payne, it’s coming at the right time. The Spartans’ next five games feature games against Ohio State (Saturday), road games against a hot Wisconsin team (Jan. 22) and No. 2 Indiana (Jan. 27), wrapping up with home games against No. 23 Illinois and No. 9 Minnesota.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne