ANN ARBOR — It’s clear Keith Appling isn’t at full bore
Still, the senior guard started and played 25 minutes, scoring six points and dishing out six assists in the No. 13 MSU men’s basketball team’s 79-70 loss to Michigan Sunday afternoon.
“I was going with my guy,” Izzo said. “Of course his wrist is effecting his shot. He still drove, he still did some things. I’ve got to get guys ready for down the road. You can only Band-Aid things so much. Keith is not a 100 percent, he’s not 80 percent, but he’s doing better than he was.”
As the game wore on, Appling was given the tough task of guarding Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas was the high scorer of the game with 25 points for the Wolverines, 21 of which came in the second half.
Appling said it’s tough to do what he knows he’s capable of after not playing for three games and getting limited playing time in the next two.
“It’s really frustrating,” Appling said. “I try not to let it show or let my teammates see that. At the end of the day I’m the point guard, the quarterback as coach would say. As long as I’m out on the court, I’ve got to play at as high a level as possible.”
In the second half, he fell and looked to be holding the wrist that has been giving trouble for much of the season, but he got right back up and carried on.
The Spartans have been without junior forward Branden Dawson for the last nine games after he broke his hand, and MSU is 4-5 in that stretch.
Appling said that defensively, Dawson is a force to be reckoned with, one that might have been enough to stop Stauskas from going off.
“We miss Brandon a lot,” Appling said. “He was one of those guys that could guard 1-4 or 1-5. With his length and athletic ability, some of those shots that Stauskas got off on me, he wouldn’t have gotten off against Brandon.”
Gary Harris doesn’t like excuses.
Instead of deflecting the blame and saying they would’ve played better if they had Dawson, he chalked it up to the Wolverines playing more as a team than MSU.
“They stuck together more,” Harris said. “They did the things they needed to do down the stretch and stuck together as a team and were able to pull it off. We all know each other. I don’t like the discombobulated excuse, we just have to play better.”
Izzo is still confident that he and the Spartanscan win a Big Ten title and make a deep NCAA Tournament run, and he knows Appling will be leading the charge.
“I’m going to keep playing Appling because I’ve got to play the guys that are playing down the stretch,” Izzo said. “Hindsight is always 20/20 except this year.”