Highs and lows

Exciting win fades into disappointment as Spartans fall short against Ohio State


MSU fell to the Buckeyes 69-67.

Thursday night’s affair showed flashes of the team most thought they would see all season, with solid performances from Appling and contributions across the board.

There have been questions as to off-court distractions for the Spartans, including the potential implications of a federal investigation at the university most likely involving two unnamed basketball players.

Although Thursday’s game was a celebration of seniors, the younger players managed to step up and make solid plays that night.

Sophomore guard Denzel Valentine, sophomore guard Gary Harris and junior guard Travis Trice each scored more than 10 points to topple Iowa.

Sunday’s game was a different story.

On the court itself, sophomore Gary Harris couldn’t hit a buzzer beater with a second left to send the OSU game into overtime.

“We did a very poor job, and that falls on me,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “We were tired. There’s no doubt Payne and Appling played too many minutes because I didn’t have anybody else, because they were all in foul trouble.”

In the last two matches against Ohio State, Payne scored 18 and 16 points, and he continued his strong play with 23 against them this time around.

At the Spartans’ own senior day against Iowa, Payne was the team’s second-leading scorer at 14 points.

But during the Ohio State game, the Spartans committed 16 turnovers for the third straight game, and have committed double-digit turnovers in their last six. The Spartans are 4-2 in that stretch.

“They played some good defense,” Payne said. “I had five turnovers, and being a senior, you can’t do that. They did a good job in the post, and I didn’t recognize it and make good decisions from it. I’ve got to look at film and get better.”

The entire game was a back-and-forth battle, with both teams going on scoring runs to trade the lead.

The game was tied on 12 separate occasions.

The Spartans went on a 9-0 run midway through the first half, but the Buckeyes stormed back with a 7-0 run that saw MSU turn the ball over on three straight possessions.

“We’ve got to value each possession,” Appling said. “They scored off of some of our turnovers, and that’s the difference in the game. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board.”

It was another run by Ohio State, this time 7-1, at the start of the second half that pushed the lead to five points.

Harris scored his first six points of the game with back-to-back threes to turn a five-point Ohio State lead into a one-point Spartan lead.

MSU didn’t score for the final four-and-a half minutes, and between the two teams, only one field goal was made over that period.

“For the most part, we hung in there,” Izzo said. “We had a five point lead, and Adreian was so tired he couldn’t get out on people. That’s not his fault. We had some guys that couldn’t guard, and my guys that could guard were on the bench.”

Next up for MSU is the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, where they’ll take on either Northwestern or Iowa on Friday.

The Spartans were 4-0 against the Hawkeyes and Wildcats this season, and Appling said there’s still enough time to turn things around.

“Especially with the (practice) time we’ll be a able to get in,” Appling said. “Hopefully we’ll get more in sync as we approach the Big Ten Tournament and see how it goes from there.”

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