Nov 13, 2012, 11:38 PM EST
ATLANTA – Keith Appling finished with 17 points and four assists in Friday’s season-opening loss to UConn on Ramstein Air Force base in Germany, but that solid stat-line does an impressive job of hiding the truth about his performance: Appling played far from his best game, failed to get Michigan State consistent quality shots down the stretch and was at the helm for an ugly offensive performance by the Spartans.
In simpler terms, the Spartans’ offensive struggles cost them a game against a team they had no business losing to, and as the point guard and first scoring option, much of the blame falls on Appling’s shoulders.
Judging any team based on a single performance, especially when that single performance comes on European soil, is wholeheartedly unfair. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop critics from wondering whether or not Michigan State was actually overrated this season. Appling was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school and entered last season with all kinds of expectations. Had he once again failed to improve his game? Was this just going to be another year made up of unfulfilled expectations, inconsistent perimeter shooting and too many turnovers?
It could be.
But after Tuesday’s performance, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Appling scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, while also adding three assists and three steals as No. 21 Michigan State overcame a second half deficit to knock off No. 7 Kansas 67-64. But, as they did against UConn, Appling’s numbers only tell half the story.
On seemingly every crucial possession, Tom Izzo put the ball in Appling’s hands. When Kansas pushed their lead to six early in the second half, Appling drew a foul on one possession and found Adreian Payne for a lob on the next. Three minutes later, after Kansas got the lead back up to seven, Appling scored on back-to-back tough drives to keep the Spartans within reach. He hit a three at the 6:55 mark to give Michigan State their first lead since the 6:27 mark of the first half.
Most importantly, however, were the plays Appling made in the final three minutes. He found Branden Dawson, who was fouled and hit both free throws, with 2:07 left to put the Spartans up 62-59. After two free throws form Elijah Johnson, Appling dribbled left off of a high ball-screen, froze the hedger Jeff Withey, and buried a three from the top of the key. And after Ben McLemore finished an and-one off of a foul-induced Appling turnover, Sparty’s new go-to guy dribbled off that same high-ball screen, drawing Withey out before blowing by him for an acrobatic layup.
That put Michigan State up 67-64 with 12 seconds left, ensuring that Kansas would need to hit a three to force overtime. They didn’t. Spartans win.
And all this happened with Appling and freshman counterpart Gary Harris playing a heavier-than-normal workload with back up point guard Travis Trice laid up with a broken nose and concussion. Impressive, indeed.
So what changed in Appling in the four days since the game in Germany?
“It was very, very well coached,” Tom Izzo said with a laugh after the game. “He did a great job of staying under control.”
“He’s a phenomenal athlete, but he’s started to make better and better decisions. He continues to work on it, and I think he’s fallen in love with the game a little bit more, too. He’s a guy that’s watched a little bit more film than he did last year and he’s starting to understand things. I’m proud of Keith, I really am.”
Appling’s decision-making will be the difference for Michigan State this season.
I like Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, but I doubt that even Izzo believes that his big men are much more than rebounders and defenders at this point. They aren’t exactly Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Even Branden Dawson is more of an undersized four than he is a pure small forward at this point in his career.
The offense has to come from somewhere, which is what makes Appling so important.
It wasn’t just his play in the clutch on Tuesday night; Michigan State looked like a different team in the first half against Kansas than they did against UConn. There was movement offensively, they were scoring in transition, and, quite frankly, they looked like they had a clue at that end of the floor. That’s the benefit of Appling, the facilitator.
And it’s fine if he plays that role, because it means he’s embracing the idea of being a point guard.
So long as he doesn’t forget about his value as the closer in the clutch.
Dec 9, 2013, 9:45 PM EST
Bryant played in its first nationally televised game on the road Monday at Notre Dame on ESPNU, and they put up a fight against the Irish in a 70-59 loss. Although Notre Dame was 6-2 entering the game, Bryant showed confidence throughout the game as Notre Dame never seemed to do what they…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:00 PM EST
Boston College’s struggles this season have been well chronicled. The Golden Eagles got thumped last week on the road at Purdue and took another loss at the Galen Center to USC this weekend. Steve Donahue’s ballclub is 3-6 now and their defense in particular has struggled this season as they’ve played a pretty difficult nonconference…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:23 PM EST
Prior to the season, every pundit for every outlet across the country will put together his or her list of players with the potential to have a breakout season. Which freshmen will have big sophomore seasons? Which seniors will finally get the chance to step into a starring role? What transfers spent their redshirt year…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:38 PM EST
Florida got a huge boost for their showdown with Kansas on Tuesday. For the first time this season, we will get a chance to see Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill team up in the back court for the Gators. Wilbekin, a senior, had been suspended for the first five games of the year. Before he…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:44 PM EST
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chaz Williams, UMass UMass has been one of the nation’s most impressive teams this season, and the reason has been the emergence of guys like Raphiael Putney, Cady Lalanne and Sampson Carter. As good as those three have played, the MVP of this UMass team has been dynamic point guard Chaz Williams,…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:09 PM EST
We knew that Michigan State was banged up the way that they finished their loss to North Carolina last week. Tom Izzo expounded on those issues this week. On Monday, Izzo said that center Matt Costello will be out ”two to three weeks minimum.” Izzo hasn’t confirmed the diagnosis, but he told reporters on Monday that…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:39 AM EST
Former Rutgers player Derrick Randall is suing the university over the way he was treated during Mike Rice’s tenure as the school’s head coach. The lawsuit was filed in the state’s federal court on Friday and names Rice, former assistant coach James Martelli, the university, school president Robert Barchi, former AD Tim Pernetti, CFO Janine Purcaro, and…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:23 AM EST
Entering the season, there seemed to be a consensus top five among pundits: Michigan State, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky and Kansas. A month into the season, all five of those teams have lost at least one game. Four teams have jumped all five in our top 25 rankings: Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State. 1. Arizona…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 13 Oregon 115, Ole Miss 105 (OT) Prior to Sunday the 13th-ranked Ducks hadn’t played a game away from Eugene since beating Georgetown in South Korea in their season opener, so their trip to Oxford represented a significant test. And after a Jarvis Summers three-pointer with eight tenths of a…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:06 PM EST
After scoring just ten points as a freshman in Creighton’s loss to Nebraska, senior forward Doug McDermott’s had his way with the Huskers. In each of the ensuing three meetings McDermott’s shot better than 50% from the floor, including a 33-point, eight-rebound performance in the Bluejays’ 82-67 win on Sunday night. Not to take another…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:57 PM EST
Maurice Creek’s college basketball career was destined to be short-lived. 11 games into his freshman season at Indiana, the 6-foot-4 guard from Oxon Hill, MD, was averaging 17.6 points and shooting 45.3% from three, the star of Tom Crean’s first recruiting class at Indiana that also included Jordy Hulls and Christian Watford. He was getting…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:36 PM EST
Based upon the program Andy Enfield inherited when it signed on to become the new head coach at USC, the general expectation was that the Trojans would take their lumps as they transition to the fast-paced style that resulted in FGCU reaching the Sweet 16. And that may very well be the case as the…
Dec 8, 2013, 7:57 PM EST
When it was announced that starting point guard Dominic Artis was one of two players (forward Ben Carter being the other) suspended nine games for a violation of NCAA rules, there wasn’t a great deal of consternation amongst those who follow the Oregon Ducks. Why? There’s still plenty of talent at Dana Altman’s disposal in…
Dec 8, 2013, 6:24 PM EST
George Washington did everything they could to give away a 66-52 lead in the final seven minutes against Maryland in the nightcap of the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. With Dez Wells stuck on the bench after picking up his fifth foul and the Terps on their heels thanks to a…
Dec 8, 2013, 5:27 PM EST
Just days after surviving a tough test at city rival San Diego, No. 24 San Diego State played arguably its worst half of the season against Washington on Sunday afternoon. While the Aztecs aren’t a team chock full of prolific shooters, they do have multiple athletes capable of finding quality looks both at the rim…
Dec 8, 2013, 3:30 PM EST
UCLA ended up losing its first game of the season, at the hands of undefeated Missouri, 80-71, on Saturday afternoon in Columbia. But did you see the dunk freshman guard Zach LaVine had toward the end of the first half? A Missouri player slipped near halfcourt, as the intended pass went flying by him. LaVine…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
Michigan leading scorer Nik Stauskas rolled his ankle in the second half of the Wolverines’ 63-61 loss to Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game on Nov. 24. That ankle kept him out in a blowout win against Coppin State, and thanks to the defensive performances of Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones, Stauskas scored…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:05 PM EST
With 3.8 second left, Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans tossed his inbounds pass to Rob Loe, who drove to the bucket, but his lefty layup was blocked. The Valparaiso defense had its heads turned, allowing Mike McCall Jr. to slip past on the box out, and tipped in the game-winner as the Billikens escaped with…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:50 AM EST
Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. opened in 1971 and holds five national championship banners as well as serving as a winter home for 17,472 Hoosier fans each season. It’s one of the most iconic venues in all of college basketball, but the university is looking to improve the condition of its longtime arena, according to…
- College Basketball Talk’s Top 20 Most Improved Players 1
- College Hoops Week in Review: Wisconsin’s for real, and so is Chaz Williams 0
- Former Rutgers player Derrick Randall sues school over Mike Rice’s actions 2
- College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25 rankings 0
- Maurice Creek, George Washington proving to be a match made in heaven 0
- Professor at center of UNC’s academic fraud case to face felony charges (8)
- No. 1 Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina: Injuries, or sign of a bigger issue? (5)
- Report: Delta bumps entire flight to get Florida to UConn (3)
- Weekend Preview: Kentucky-Baylor, a trio of in-state rivalry games (3)
- Turnovers, rebounding woes plague No. 3 Kentucky again (3)