Black and blue

Injuries, absence of key Spartans contribute to devastating loss against U-M


Keith Appling is tough, but he’s not Superman.

The senior guard fought his way through 37 minutes in the No. 3 MSU men’s basketball team’s 80-75 loss to arch rival Michigan Saturday night.

“You wanted a rivalry and you wanted two good teams, so I guess you got what you were asking for,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “Don’t take anything away from them. They made some good shots. We had our chance.”

The Spartans had a six-point lead at the half, but the Wolverines fought back by hitting 50 percent of their shots in the second half.

They went 25-30 from the free throw line to seal the deal.

Nik Stauskas scored 19 points for U-M, including going 5-of-6 from three-point land.

Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. also added 19 for the Wolverines after going 9-of-10 from the charity stripe down the stretch.

Sophomore guard Gary Harris kept MSU in the game with a career-high 27 points, while freshman guard Alvin Ellis also set a new personal best with 12 points of his own.

Appling finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points and dishing out 10 assists.

Still, MSU wasn’t at 100 percent.

The Spartans were without senior forward Adreian Payne and junior forward Branden Dawson, both of whom have injuries keeping them out of play.

Sophomore guard Travis Trice is coming back from an illness.

Appling is dealing with a whole host of injuries.

Izzo was crushed after the game, but he wouldn’t let the injuries get the team off the hook for letting the game slip through their grasp.

“Those injuries aren’t going away, so I don’t want that to be an excuse,” he said. “Keith Appling, I can’t tell you how much that kid sucked it up. (That was a) heroic effort by Appling. I don’t say that very often.”

Appling has performed under pressure for the Spartans all season and ?is one of three players who has played in every game so far.

He averages 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per game and was chosen for the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 along with Payne.

In the 79-65 loss against North Carolina on Dec. 4, Appling fell hard on his side and injured his wrist.

He then re-aggravated it in the Spartans last game against Indiana.

He also injured his back recently in the Big Ten campaign.

“If I told you what I’m fighting through, we’d be here all night,” Appling said. “I stepped out there on the floor, so I was expected to perform, and we came up short.

“We’ve got to look at it like a lesson learned and correct some errors we made.”

Appling said his wrist has been a lingering issue since the North Carolina game.

He said he’s just going to rehab it and believes he’ll be all right after that.

Even with the loss, Izzo said he’s had a good week.

As much as people were angry about how Dawson suffered his injury, he’s happy to see some passion for the game.

The only thing the Spartans can do is wait for hands, feet and wrists to heal.

Izzo is going to deal with the adversity the same way he has all season.

“I’m just worried that we’ve got some more injuries (coming),” he said. “We’re still right in this hunt, don’t kid yourself. We’re here, and we might even be stronger than we were before the game.”

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