Payne makes up for Appling's absence
FEB 06, 2014 11:09p ET
EAST LANSING, MICH. -- When you have a talented big man on the floor, it can make all the difference in the world.
It could have been a disaster for the Michigan State Spartans, playing Penn State without starting point guard Keith Appling (wrist), but the return of senior forward Adreian Payne made it all better for one night.
The Spartans easily defeated the Nittany Lions, 82-67, improving to 20-3, 9-1 in the Big Ten.
The fans in the Izzone at the Breslin Center knew how much Payne meant, too. They started to go crazy as soon as they saw Payne get near the scorer's table to check into the game.
At 16:21 of the first half, Payne came into the game, his first action since Jan. 7 against Ohio State.
Travis Trice, starting in Appling's place, didn't make Payne or the fans wait long.
Just 26 seconds after Payne checked in, Trice fed him for a jumper.
"That was definitely big," Trice said. "That was fun being one of his friends, one of his teammates, when he checks in, the whole stands going crazy and cheering for him.
"It's definitely good to have him back because he affects the game in so many different ways. He affects how they can guard us. You saw (Thursday), Kenny was getting a lot of open shots just because AP's on the floor."
That's Kenny Kaminski, who led the Spartans with a career-best 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, 5-of-6 from three-point range.
Kaminski was well aware that with Payne in the game, there was less focus on him.
"Huge. He's such a big post presence," Kaminski said. "When he's in the game, it really opens up me because my guy sags off a little bit. There's just a little too much space and I know I'm gonna get a shot. AP is an obvious threat offensively."
Payne finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, adding three rebounds, two assists and one block in 18 minutes off the bench.
Payne said he was a little surprised how well he played, considering he had just two practices with the team before playing in the game.
"I am kind of (surprised)," Payne said. "Throughout the whole situation being out, I've been just trying to put myself in the situations in practice and I've been doing finger shots and trying to always think about playing and it paid off."
Denzel Valentine, who flirted with a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four steals, said the Spartans realized how much they missed Payne.
"It's a big difference when you've got an All-American, future NBA player in the post," Valentine said. "Something good's gonna happen. Either they're going to double and there's going to be somebody open or he's gonna get a bucket.
"Having him back, I'm happy about it and hopefully he can continue to stay healthy and we get everybody back."
Even though it meant the end of Penn State's three-game winning streak, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said he was glad Payne was back in the lineup for MSU.
"I want to play them at full strength and see where we are and what we can do, see what we have to improve and get better at," Chamber said. "It was like Willis Reed coming off the bench, the crowd was going crazy, a standing ovation.
"They used that, coach (Tom) Izzo used that really well as motivation for his team and for the crowd."
Payne was wearing a boot on his right foot after the game and said he was told he'd be sore after playing.
But the Spartans will need him -- and Appling -- as they go forward into games at Wisconsin this weekend and at Michigan on Feb. 23.
"This has been the most frustrating, because some of these injuries -- we have a blister that has a blister under the blister," Izzo said. "Who the hell ever heard of that? We've had four of our best players and all five starters have been out."
But Payne said the adversity will serve them in the long run.
"I think we're gonna be better," Payne said. "I think we have to redefine ourselves again. We've had to do it so many times. I think we'll be rolling once we get everybody back."