Saturday, January 11, 2014

Certainly Payne-less, and a little painful (at least until overtime)

I can hear my (imaginary?) readers groaning after I use yet another Payneful pun. I promise that'll be the last time I torture you with one of those.
For most of today's MSU basketball game against Minnesota, it looked like it would follow the familiar Breslin Center script we've come to expect against ANY opponent: the Gophers play lights-out in the first half and take a lead into halftime. Then in the second half, Michigan State makes adjustments, the Gophers run out of steam and the Spartans pull out a win.
For most of the game, it appeared there'd be no deviation from the usual scenario, despite the fact that Richard Pitino's pressing, zone-playing team was causing problems for the Spartans. Still, by the waning moments of the second half, MSU seemed in control of the game. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the "inevitable win": Gary Harris missed two free throws, and the Gophers raced down court for the game-tying lay up. Ugh, another overtime game. As a fan, I felt emotionally and physically drained after the first 40 minutes of play, how could I bounce back for "bonus basketball." (Just imagine how the players felt?).
In overtime, though, it was ALL MSU. Instead of getting down on themselves for not finishing the job in regulation, the Spartans dominated the Gophers. I give this team this much: they are one resilient and unflappable bunch.
Denzel Valentine bounced back from his brutal performance against OSU and made some crucial plays down the stretch. Kenny Kaminski was also outstanding, and reminds me of Kirk Manns the way he strokes that outside shot. Keith Appling and Gary Harris were their usual smooth selves.
But how much longer can the Spartans get by without Adreian Payne? They should be able to survive a truly dreadful Northwestern team*, but after that, life without Payne could get tricky. Here's hoping he is healthy enough to play by the time the Spartans take on Illinois on January 18.

*The day after I posted this, Northwestern stunned Illinois, 49-43 for the Wildcats's first conference win of the season. Perhaps I spoke to soon when I dismissed them as "truly dreadful." Still, this is a game that MSU should win.

No comments:

Post a Comment