The clock strikes midnight for the seniors, but they went out with a bang. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 86-76, ending a two game home losing streak. Some games a simple box score check can do a decent job at summarizing a game, but not tonight. If you missed this senior night you missed a show that featured Appling’s breakout, a Byrd ejection, a John Cenaesque take down, and one final kiss.
Is Appling finally back?
Appling took over in the beginning of the second half. The score was tied at 41 with 17:41 left in the game when Appling made his second of two free throws. On the next possession Appling showed grit and senior leadership by stepping up the intensity on defense. He was called for a phantom foul that looked like a steal and a break-a-way dunk for the struggling senior. He wasn’t fazed; he forced another turnover in the same possession by stopping a Mike Gesell drive and forcing him to travel. This started a 2:38 stretch where the Spartans turned a tie ball game into an 8 point lead. In that stretch the Spartans dominated on the defensive end, they forced 4 turnovers one of which was another Appling steal. The hot stretch for the Spartans was punctuated by an Appling 3-pointer, giving him 8 points during that stretch.
Appling played 25 minutes in his final home game and finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and an all important win. It was the first time he’s been in double figures in over 5 weeks.
Dawson and Valentine do it all
Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine did it all in the victory against Iowa. The duo combined for 21 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, 6 steals, and 3 blocks. They were able to dominate the games in other ways than scoring. Dawson adds a needed degree of toughness to this team, helping MSU win the rebounding column 29 to 27 and the block column 7 to 1. The Spartans have won the rebounding column in both games since Dawson’s return.
It’s hard to believe it can be this late in the article before I mention the team’s leading scorer, Travis Trice. He came off the bench to play 26 minutes and score 17 points. Now, what’s even harder to believe is that I still haven’t mentioned Gary Harris or Adreian Payne. Well, that’s how promising of a game it was for the Spartans. Everyone chipped in and played well, the Spartans showed the talent that made them a preseason favorite to win it all. Payne scored 14 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. Harris finished with 12 points and 2 assists.
MSU shot 58% from the floor and 59% from beyond the arc. It was a great game all around for the Spartans, holding Iowa to 47% shooting and 35% from three. MSU also had 20 assists, 3 more than their season average of 17, which is ranked sixth nationally.
The Hawkeyes were led by Michigan native Roy Marble with 24 points and 5 assists. The 24 ranked Hawkeyes continue to slide, losing 4 of their last 5 games. In the second half, Zach McCabe released his frustration on Trice with a take-down when their arms were tangled. The replay seemed to show a trip during the take-down which resulted in a flagrant 1. Russell ‘The Enforcer’ Byrd was ejected during the play because he cleared the bench to help stand up for his teammate. The game intensity stayed elevated, and soon Iowa coach Fran McCaffery picked up a technical. Not to give McCaffery an excuse for his behavior, but it did come after a 1:40 stretch where McCabe picked up 3 fouls and turned it over once. Iowa’s final Big Ten game is home on March 8 against Illinois.
On March 9, the Spartans travel to Columbus to play Ohio State for their last regular season game. The Buckeyes are coming off two straight losses against Penn State and Indiana. Aaron Crafts senior night, it’s obviously going to be a tough day to play Ohio State.