Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bringing the Payne

I have to admit, I was surprised by how thoroughly and convincingly the Spartan basketball team beat the Texas Longhorns today. I didn't see that coming, but one would think that after almost 19 years of Tom Izzo-coached teams pulling out great gutty win after great gutty win, I should have expected it.

The game was actually nip-and-tuck through at least the first 30 minutes and change, but that's when MSU's experience, grit, and talent took over. Despite Matt Costello's absence, despite Adreian Payne's lingering aches and pains, despite Gary Harris not being at full strength, the Spartans beat a talented athletic team on its home floor, and made it look like a breeze. One would never guess that any of MSU's players were playing through health issues.

This could be one of those games we will consider a pivotal win once the season is over.

How about Adreian Payne? I'm trying to decide if that was the best game I've ever seen him play. It just might be. To borrow the tired old cliche, he was a man among boys, as he completely took the game over. If he can bring just 3/4 of that effort throughout the Big Ten season, the Spartans could roll to a conference title.

Gary Harris had a productive return into the lineup, with 19 points. Travis Trice also chipped in with perhaps his best game of the season. 13 points in 21 minutes and an astounding 3 for 4 from beyond the arc. Gavin Schilling also continues to grow by leaps and bounds. His emergence in Costello's absence has been extremely important for this team. Schilling had 4 points and 5 rebounds in only 12 minutes, and actually hit both of his free throws--quite remarkable considering the struggles he had from the charity strip against North Florida.

So there you have it, a fantastic hoops win for MSU and a splendid way to welcome in the official start of winter.

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