No. 15 Michigan St. 70, Oakland 52

Keith Appling pulled off a feat.

The Michigan State guard made his hard-driving coach happy.

Appling shook off a sprained right ankle in the first half and
finished with 20 points to help the 15th-ranked Spartans pull away
to beat Oakland 70-52 Friday night.

”I’m not an easy guy to please,” Izzo acknowledged. ”But I’m
really excited for him and proud of him for what he’s doing right
now in an incredible way.”

The Spartans – already without guards Gary Harris (shoulder) and
Travis Trice (concussion) – were worried when Appling limped off
the court late in the first half.

No one was more concerned than the junior guard.

”At first, I got scared,” Appling said. ”That didn’t seem
like an average ankle roll. After I calmed down and took a couple
deep breaths, I was able to walk on it.”

Appling was able to start the second half, made some key baskets
soon after Oakland made some shots to stay in the game and played
38 minutes.

”There’s some other great guards in this league,” Izzo said.
”Some do a lot on the offensive end, a couple are great defenders,
he’s doing both and he’s doing it with no backup.”

The Spartans (4-1) have won four straight since starting the
season with a loss to Connecticut in Germany, but looked sluggish
at times and won’t get a break with a game coming up Sunday at home
against Louisiana.

”We need to do a better job of scheduling, not who we play, but
when we play,” Izzo said. ”If there’s one guy to blame, it’s
me.”

The Golden Grizzlies (2-4) never led, but didn’t make Michigan
State’s night easy until late in the game.

That still didn’t make coach Greg Kampe happy.

”To play on this stage, I’d rather get beat 99-0 than to do
what we did,” Kampe said. ”I can’t tell you how disappointed I
am.”

The end of the game couldn’t have helped his mood.

Oakland cut its deficit to four points with 6 1/2 minutes left,
then Appling made a 3-pointer to help Michigan State pull away.

”That’s why he’s probably going to be an All-American, All-Big
Ten, or whatever,” Kampe said. ”Very good player, I wish he
played for me.”

The Spartans closed the game with a 12-0 run.

”I’m embarrassed,” Kampe said.

Adreian Payne – who got a cramp in his left leg late in the game
– scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Derrick Nix
added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Spartans.

Michigan State freshman forward Denzel Valentine had 10 points
and 10 assists, playing at times against his older brother, senior
forward Drew Valentine, who had five points and four assists.

Izzo said their parents, including their father, Carlton, a
former Spartan, have ”a lot to be proud of with those two kids,”
after watching them play against each other for the first time in a
game.

Duke Mondy scored 16 and Corey Petros had 14 points and nine
rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies.

Oakland is 2-30 against Big Ten teams, including an 0-11 mark
against Michigan State.

But the Grizzlies have beaten teams from major conferences –
Oregon and Tennessee twice each – in four of the last five seasons
and they almost did it again last week at Pittsburgh.

And early on, it looked as if Michigan State might join the list
it didn’t want to be on against Oakland.

The Spartans got off to a shaky start with eight turnovers in
less than 8 minutes, allowing the Grizzlies to hang around and
trail by only one point.

Michigan State, though, recovered well enough to lead 34-21 at
halftime. The second half was closely contested until the Spartans
started to dominate at both ends of the court and ended up
outscoring the Grizzlies 36-31 after halftime.

In both halves, Izzo gave Appling credit for leading the
way.

”He really put everyone on his back,” he said.

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage