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Sunday, April 20, 2014

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MSU runs away from New Orleans, 101-48


From left to right senior guard Keith Appling, senior forward Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Denzel Valentine celebrate the win against New Orleans on Dec. 28, 2013, at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Privateers, 101-48. Julia Nagy/The State News

With New Orleans meeting No. 5 MSU for the first time in program history, the Privateers were looking to be the first-ever Southland Conference school to take down the Spartans.

They did not come close to accomplishing the historic feat, as 12 Spartans scored en route to a 101-48 victory, hitting the century mark for the first time since Dec. 4, 2011 against Nebraska-Omaha.

Senior guard Keith Appling got the ball rolling early for MSU, as he scored seven of the Spartans’ first nine points. Appling walked into halftime with 16 points and six assist and finished with a game-leading 27 points.

“Maybe the biggest thrill of the night was (Appling) coming off one of his worst games and really bounce back,” Izzo said. “He had eight assists, and if Gary (Harris) hits some of (his shots), Appling could have had a double-double.”

Harris and senior forward Adreian Payne brought their share to the onslaught with 19 and 17 points, respectively. Sophomore guard Denzel Valentine also scored in the double-digits with 10 points.

Privateer forward Matt Derenbecker gave it his all to put New Orleans into the game early with a team-leading 16 points, 12 of which came from 3-pointers.

Although he finished the game with a solid stat line, Harris started off shaky and missed his first five shots from the field.

He then reminded the crowd at Breslin Center of his talent by nailing two consecutive 3-point attempts in a 12-0 run to give MSU a 21-10 lead with just over nine minutes to go.

When asked what got Harris going after a sluggish start, Harris had a simple answer – his team kept feeding him.

“My teammates just kept passing the ball, and I was just seeing the shots go in,” Harris said.

The closest the Privateers ever got to the Spartans after the run was seven points when they closed the gap to 28-21 with six minutes to play in the first half, but the Spartans went on another 12-0 run that included an and-1 fast break dunk by Harris on an assist from Appling. That play brought the crowd to their feet and the Privateers to an 18-point deficit, all but putting the game away in the first half.

The late run gave MSU enough steam to go into the second half and maintain momentum throughout the rest of the game.

“Late in the first half, we kind of got a few stops and a few baskets, and we kind of carried that over into the second half,” Appling said.

With Matt Costello on the bench recovering from mononucleosis and Dawson sidelined with a bruised shin, head coach Tom Izzo had the chance to create some unorthodox lineups, including junior forward Russell Byrd grabbing 18 minutes off the bench.

Byrd went 0-for-3 from the field, but contributed four rebounds and two blocks — one on a dunk attempt by New Orleans forward Cory Dixon.

“We have Costello out and Dawson out, so all the sudden there is more minutes from more people,” Izzo said. “But I tell you what, I put Byrd’s performance over (some other players) … he’s getting so much quicker and better.”

Izzo also made people double-take when they saw seldom-used walk-on forward Colby Wollenman check into the game with more than six minutes left in the first half. He scored on an and-1 layup with 19 seconds left in the game, and earned the loudest cheer from the crowd of the game. Trevor Bohnoff and Dan Chapman also scored two points late in the game to help MSU get over the 100-point mark.

“(Wollenman) impressed us so much after his first year, that we redshirted him at the end of last year,” Izzo said. “I can see down the road him playing. He’s smart, he’s a lot stronger than he looks … so we were just searching, we had guys in foul trouble, and you know what? I don’t regret that, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable with it and we’re going to make sure Colby keeps getting reps because I know he is a kid that will bring it every day.”

This was the final chapter to MSU’s preconference schedule before they face Penn State on New Year’s Eve at State College, Pa. (5 p.m., BTN)

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