Michigan State’s seniors help hand Buckeyes first loss

Keith Appling finished with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Raj Mehta/Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Breslin Center’s Izzone said it best: "Just like football!"

It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but with their Rose Bowl-winning compatriots in the crowd, there was no way that No. 5 Michigan State was going to fold to No. 3 Ohio State.

It was only appropriate that the basketball team had to overcome its own adversity to defeat the Buckeyes a month to the day after the football team did so in the Big Ten championship game.

The formerly undefeated Buckeyes (15-1, 2-1) came back from a 17-point deficit to tie the Spartans (14-1, 3-0) at 58 at the end of regulation and force overtime.

Give us credit, we found a way to win

Tom Izzo

But senior point guard Keith Appling and senior center Adreian Payne fought through cramping (Appling) and a foot injury (Payne) to lead the Spartans to a 72-68 victory. 

"Keith was so hurt, he was cramping up so bad," MSU coach Tom Izzo told ESPN on the floor after the game. "Without (Travis) Trice we just didn’t have the bodies. Adreian Payne, give him credit. He played like a man."

Both hit key three-pointers in overtime, Appling’s coming with 34 seconds left, breaking a 66-66 tie.

Appling also made three of his last four free throws and snagged a key rebound after Ohio State’s Marc Loving missed a three with five seconds left.

"That’s the point guard’s job," Appling told the Big Ten Network. "The simple fact that I’m a senior on this team and I’ve been here the longest and been through the most, of course I should be the leader out there."

Appling led the way with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Payne had 18 points and six rebounds.

Payne has been plagued by plantar fasciitis all season.

Izzo was downright effusive about his two seniors.

"I get to the building and (Payne’s) not playing," Izzo said in his post game press conference. "Doctors took him up here and worked him out a little bit. I said, ‘Don’t warm up’ and he didn’t warm up. I said, ‘See if the adrenaline gets going when the game starts.’ He said he wanted to play."

The Spartans were also hurting because Trice missed the game due to illness. Izzo said Trice had been too sick to practice the last three days.

Then Denzel Valentine fouled out, which is why Appling had to play 43 minutes despite cramping.

"He had both legs were cramped up, they were working on him every minute," Izzo said. "He couldn’t get open to save his life. If you want to write a story, write on his character and his heart because he sucked. it. up. So did Adreian.

"I’m disappointed in the last seven minutes but what a heroic effort by a couple of guys."

The Spartans honored the football team during the game. At halftime, offensive lineman Travis Jackson led the entire crowd in the WWE "Yes!" chant that the football team did in the locker room after beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

"Give us credit, we found a way to win," Izzo said. "We played so good and so hard and all of a sudden, we made mistake after mistake. Fatigue probably played a big part of it. To lose a lead like that, it’s hard to feel good about.

"I think I’ll find some solace in the fact that my seniors were warriors. That says something about a team and maybe the crowd deserves the credit. To lose a 17-point lead and then bounce back and win it, I think that takes some character.

"Good football rivalry. It’s going to turn into a good basketball-football rivalry."