Keith Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half as No. 10 Michigan State smothered No. 22 Wisconsin on Thursday night, opening up the second half with an 16-2 run over the first eight minutes to take a 21 point lead en route to a 58-43 win over the Badgers.
The Spartans needed a game like this after losing three in a row, and not just because they finally got a win. They needed Appling to break out of the dreadful slump he had been in for three-and-a-half games. Appling scored 18 points in those three losses. He had eight assists and nine turnovers during that stretch. He shot 5-23 from the floor and snapped a stretch of 17 straight missed threes by going 1-7 on Thursday.
Moving forward, that is what matters.
Because it doesn’t really matter that Michigan State’s win means they still have a shot at winning a share of the Big Ten regular season title, or that this win means that they will get one of those top four seeds in the Big Ten tournament as long as they don’t do something dumb like lose to Northwestern at home.
What matters is that Appling snapped out of his funk. At the end of the day, he’s the most important player for the Spartans because a) he’s streaky and inconsistent; b) when he’s playing well, he’s really good at being the kind of dynamic playmaker that the Spartans need; and c) no one else on the Spartans can do what he can do at that spot.
They can’t win in March without Appling.
So regardless of what the score was tonight, the takeaway from Thursday is that Appling got it going offensively.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.