Adreian Payne experienced a personal low point in the morning, then rebounded with a career high Wednesday night.
An altercation involving Payne and his Michigan State basketball teammate and off-campus roommate, Branden Dawson, at the Nittany Lion Inn is under investigation by the Penn State University Police, according to Chief of Police Tyrone Parham.
It was an embarrassing episode to begin the day, but some 10 hours later, Payne scored a career-high 20 points to lead his team to an 81-72 victory at University Park, Pa.
As a penalty for the morning altercation, Spartans coach Tom Izzo decided not to start either player. He sent them both into the game with 16:37 remaining in the second half and Michigan State holding onto a 35-31 lead over the Nittany Lions.
Payne, a junior center-forward from Dayton, Ohio, played the best game of his college career in less than a half of action. He made 6 of 9 shots from the field — including the third 3-pointer of his career — and grabbed seven rebounds.
Penn State fans chanted, “Fight! Fight!” during his free-throw attempts. Payne responded by making 7 of 10 from the line.
Afterward, former Spartans coach Gus Ganakas asked Izzo if he would consider saving Payne for the second half from now on.
“I might,” Izzo said on WJR-AM. “I might. I’m considering a lot with those two.
“They were wrong in what they did. I know what people are thinking, but I hope they don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill — because it wasn’t one.”
Penn State, which has lost all five Big Ten games this season, hung with the Spartans until Payne was unleashed and played the rest of the game.
Dawson had five points, five rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes.
Both players stood on the sidelines wearing sweatsuits over their uniforms during much of the first half and cheered on their teammates. They also appeared to joke around together — a far cry from what happened earlier in the day.
“Both players punched each other in the face,” Parham said. “One shoved the other into a wall, causing damage to the wall. Both of them have cuts on their faces, but declined medical attention. The incident remains under investigation.”
Parham said no charges have been filed against either party.
“A scuffle that began as two players needling each other resulted in a dented wall,” Izzo said in a released statement just hours before the game. “We’ll deal with this appropriately, and the players will willingly accept responsibility for paying for any property damage.
“I’ve spent my entire afternoon meeting with the players involved and they are both sincerely remorseful. What makes matters even more confusing is that they are off-campus roommates. As a result of their actions neither one will start tonight’s game.”
Dawson (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) is a starting forward who sparked the team in the three previous games by averaging 14.3 points in wins over Purdue, Iowa and Nebraska. Payne (6-10, 240 pounds) usually comes off the bench to back up center Derrick Nix, but also plays power forward and shared the team rebound lead with Nix at 7.2 per game.
Alex Gauna started at forward in place of Dawson and had two points, four rebounds and one blocked shots in 16 minutes. Dawson had started all 17 previous games for the No. 18 Spartans.
Parham said police were called at 11:11 a.m. after a verbal argument began between the players on a second-floor rotunda. The players were on a team bus when police arrived.
“We got the two players off the bus to investigate,” Parham said. “They had been on their way to a walk-through practice at the Jordan Center.”
A very strange day indeed for Michigan State basketball, which ended with Payne being one of the driving forces in Izzo’s 200th victory in Big Ten competition.
“I guess that’s a milestone,” Izzo said on his radio show. “So we’ll take it.”