The past few days have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for Spartan basketball fans.
After beating top-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night, Michigan State returned home and almost lost its first November home game since 1986 on Friday night.
Instead, Michigan State squeaked out a 62-53 win against Columbia and might be headed for the No. 1 ranking in the next weekly polls – but Tom Izzo wants nothing to do with the top-ranked label.
“We’ve just got to hope now that Kansas blows someone out so they move them ahead of us,” Izzo said. “Because we proved tonight that we’re not ready to handle any kind of success, and that disappoints me.”
Even if the Spartans added an extra notch in ‘W’ column Friday night, they aren’t satisfied.
“We just didn’t come with the energy that we needed to win the game,” Harris said. “We won, but it was definitely too close for comfort.”
It took an 11-2 run in the final six minutes of play – after trailing for more than 20 minutes throughout the night.
Senior Adreian Payne stepped up for the Spartans in the final minutes, scoring 10 of his game-high 26 points in the final seven minutes of the game to bring Breslin to life and help Michigan State pull away from the Lions late.
Michigan State grabbed the lead and never trailed again when it went up 48-46, with 7:28 to play after sophomore Gary Harris drained a floater.
It was MSU’s first lead of the game since it went ahead 15-14 with 7:59 on the clock in the first half.
Despite beginning and ending the game with strong play – MSU started the game on a 9-0 run – the rest of the game was a performance the Spartans will soon want to forget.
The Spartans were sloppy in transition and missed several rebound opportunities on both sides of the court late in the first half. Michigan State couldn’t get shots to fall, either, shooting 35 percent from the field.
After being outrebounded by Kentucky on Tuesday, Izzo talked about getting the pads out and working on that, but MSU again was beaten on the glass as Columbia held a 31-27 edge.
“That’s just something that’s unacceptable; Michigan State is known for its rebounding,” Harris said. “I don’t even think that’s happened in Izzo’s career - being outrebounded in two straight games.”
Early minutes in the second half featured more of the same from the Spartans, although things started to pick up.
Junior Branden Dawson slammed home an alley-oop from Appling on the fast break to bring the score to 31-26, and sophomore Denzel Valentine finished an easy lay-in on MSU’s next possession to cut the lead to 31-28.
Both teams traded baskets throughout the middle of the second half and Columbia maintained its lead.
But a Dawson put-back tied the game 44-44 with 10:06 to play, and it seemed to spark an MSU comeback as Harris’ floater gave the Spartans the lead a few minutes later.
“I thought when we really needed to get some buckets, we did run some stuff nice,” Izzo said. “We executed pretty good when we really needed to, which shows you that you can if you want to.”
Columbia’s Meiko Lyles tied the game 51-51 with six minutes to play, Payne’s dominating inside play sealed the deal for the Spartans one possession later, after a towering dunk from a lob pass by Appling.
“It was just a matter of me trying to find a way to keep us in the game,” Payne said. “Keith did a great job of penetrating the zone and finding me.”
While he finished with only three points and six assists after a career game against Kentucky, Appling was instrumental in the Spartan’s comeback, assisting on two of Payne’s three dunks in the final seven minutes.
Michigan State’s cause was helped by the Spartans’ student section, which purposefully counted down the shot clock incorrectly with three minutes to play, making Columbia commit back-to-back shot-clock violations when the Lions were trailing by two.
“When that happened I almost got up and thanked them,” Izzo said. “But I didn’t want to embarrass anybody.”
Harris was MSU’s second-leading scorer with 11 points. Columbia’s Maodo Lo finished with a team-high 12 points.
For the first time since the 2008 season, Michigan State didn’t hit a 3-pointer, going 0 for 7 on the night.
“I’m just disappointed in some of the decisions that some pretty intelligent basketball players made tonight,” Izzo said.
MSU will look to rebound from the near loss when it hosts Portland at 7 p.m. Monday in another Coaches vs. Cancer Classic matchup.
“We have to make sure we come in and everyone is ready to go,” Appling said. “If we continue this way, our season won’t go the way we want it to, and coach is not going to be happy.
“Every great team plays to get better each and every night, and that’s something that we just didn’t do tonight. And it can’t happen again.”