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.