Minnesota-Michigan St. Preview
Coach Tom Izzo may be getting tired of the narrative, but the array of injuries that have plagued Michigan State are simply too many to ignore.
Winning is providing a temporary cure for the fifth-ranked Spartans - no matter how difficult it has been to earn those victories.
Michigan State seeks an eighth straight win Saturday when it hosts a Minnesota team facing the first of four straight Top 25 opponents.
The Spartans (14-1, 3-0 Big Ten) seem to have seen it all on the injury front this season, with each of Izzo's regular starters missing at least one game due to injury or illness.
Michigan State had to battle through more setbacks against No. 3 Ohio State on Tuesday, but it held on for a 72-68 overtime victory after blowing a 17-point lead in the second half. Adreian Payne scored 18 points in 32 minutes despite not starting due to a right foot sprain, and fellow senior Keith Appling finished with 20 - including a tiebreaking 3-pointer in OT - while battling cramps in both legs.
Payne originally told Izzo he wouldn't play before asking into the game.
"It sounds like an excuse, but we are so beat up," Izzo said. "I probably should be happier than I am (about the win), considering the circumstances."
The Spartans refused to fully collapse despite being outrebounded 42-28, as Payne and Appling made big plays throughout the contest.
"They killed us on the boards because we had a couple guys that just didn't show up. Then to lose a lead like that, it's hard to feel good about it," Izzo said. "I think I'll find some solace in the fact that my seniors were warriors."
Appling has hit 10 of 16 from behind the arc while averaging 18.8 points over his last four.
"We kind of blew an opportunity to make a statement, but at the same time we still understood that we had the opportunity to win the game," Appling said. "I feel like all teams come together after winning a big game and fighting through adversity to do it.
"Hopefully we learned something from losing a large lead late in the game. Be happy about it but not satisfied."
Michigan State has won 14 straight home meetings against Minnesota, including a 61-50 victory Feb. 6 as Gary Harris scored a game-high 15 points and Appling added 14.
The Golden Gophers will try to snap that run before facing more difficult tests over the next 12 days. After visiting the Spartans, Minnesota (13-3, 2-1) hosts Ohio State on Thursday and plays at No. 20 Iowa on Jan. 19 before hosting No. 4 Wisconsin on Jan. 22.
"I don't think about the next four games. The only time I do is when people bring it up to me," coach Richard Pitino said. "Not that it's wrong, (nor is) my wife looking at the schedule on the refrigerator going, `Oh, my goodness,' but you don't think like that. You just think about the next opponent and you just try to take it one game at a time."
The Gophers have won their last two after Morehead State transfer Deandre Mathieu scored a team-high 16 points in Wednesday's 68-65 win over Penn State. Leading scorer Andre Hollins, who scored 22 points in last season's 76-63 home victory over the Spartans, added 14.
Minnesota hasn't won in East Lansing since Jan. 4, 1997.