Spartans prepare for tough games ahead


For Keith Appling, it still hurts.

It’s not losing to the top team in the country that stings.

After all, there’s no shame in that.

It’s one simple thought that has gnawed away at him for the past three days, one that led him to spend Tuesday night alone, trying to sleep it off.

“I just didn’t bring it,” the junior guard said of his performance in the Spartans’ 72-68 loss to Indiana.

“It was tough. I really didn’t want to talk to nobody. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t hang out with nobody. I just went home, got into bed. I didn’t even watch TV. I just went home, got into bed and tried to sleep it off, but every time I closed my eyes, I just kept thinking about when (Indiana guard) Victor Oladipo tipped the ball in to put them up one.”

It was the play that turned the game, giving Indiana a lead they never would relinquish, handing the Spartans their first loss in nearly a month and forcing them to regroup.

For Appling and company, the opportunity begins Sunday, when the No. 4 MSU men’s basketball team (22-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten) goes on the road to take on No. 18 Ohio State (19-7, 9-5) on Sunday (4 p.m., CBS) in Columbus, Ohio.

“It’s something I can’t dwell on. We have another top-15 (caliber) team coming up, so we’ve just got to get ready for them,” Appling said.

In the moments following the loss to Indiana, Tom Izzo said he didn’t have the ability to see any positives.

But in the past few days working with his team, the Spartans’ head coach said he’s learned a lot.
“Right after the game, there was so many things I was upset about,” Izzo said.

“I learned a lot today. I learned that we’re excited to be here. They were disappointed and then Keith was disappointed — those are all positive things. (Sophomore guard Branden Dawson) was in here working out on his off day. Those are all positive things.”

Tuesday’s loss was the beginning of a tough stretch for the Spartans, where MSU will face the top four teams in the conference in consecutive games.

Izzo said he was told Thursday MSU will be the first team in the country this season to play four consecutive conference games against ranked teams, and it’s with that in mind he’s able to
find perspective.

“This is the time of the year where I’m turning up the pressure on them. We’re still pretty young and the leadership is still a question mark. It’s not great. So it’s harder to read it, but I like the fact that they know they’re playing for something. I’ve always said this … the last two weeks of the season, you should be playing for something in your conference and now we are. That’s a big thing,” Izzo said.
“We’re still playing for, right now, our fourth Big Ten championship in five years. You know, we’re still playing as a team that has a chance to be a top three or four seed, no matter what happens. …That’s a lot to play for.”

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