Keith Appling scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including eight points in a 12-4 surge that sparked a massive second half run as the No. 22 Spartans knocked off No. 24 Iowa, 86-76.
Those eight points from Appling came in a flurry, and the hope is that they will change the course of Michigan State’s season. It started with a free throw. Appling had been struggling with a wrist injury — and some shaky confidence — in recent weeks, and after a scoreless first half and a missed front end, Appling hit the second of two free throws which finally seemed to give him some confidence.
He made a layup off of a turnover on the next possession, following that up with a driving, reverse layup that showed the kind of explosiveness and aggressiveness we’ve been waiting to see out of him. Three possessions later, he buried a three in rhythm, and it was all downhill from there as the Spartans outscored Iowa 36-18 over a 12 minute stretch.
Appling would add another three and a lob to Dawson after driving through Iowa’s entire defense.
I know that it was only 20 minutes of basketball, but Appling’s second half was the best basketball that he’s played in a long time. He looked confident and he was attacking the basket, and the Spartans were a different team when he did. Their energy level was way up, they got out in transition, they locked up Iowa defensively. For the first time since January, Michigan State looked like the Michigan State we’ve been waiting for.
Here’s the question: was this just a blip on the radar? Was this the emotion of Senior Night boiling over? Was this just a by-product of the fact that Iowa hasn’t been able to keep a sofa cushion out of the paint for a month?
Or was this a sign of things to come?
We’ve said it all season long. If Michigan State gets healthy, they will be one of, if not the favorite to win the national title.
In the second half on Thursday night, they finally looked healthy.