Michigan State rolled out a different starting lineup than usual, but the results were the same for the Spartans.
The top-ranked team in the nation rolled over Mount St. Mary’s 98-65 despite opening the game Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne benched because of missing a class.
”I got a lot of jobs in this job and one of them is to graduate guys and one of them is to make sure that we stay accountable,” coach Tom Izzo said. “(It was) a minor little thing but it was over a class that they needed to be at and were told it and just decided to try their way and their way didn’t work.”
Gary Harris didn’t play at all while resting an ankle injury, but Izzo expects him to start against North Carolina on Wednesday.
”He’s fine, it’s just that his ankle has plateaued a little bit and just doesn’t feel as comfortable,” Izzo said.
Sophomore Denzel Valentine and junior Travis Trice made the most of their opportunity to start, as each had 15 points – a career-high for Valentine.
Appling said it was great to see others making contributions, but still hard to not be on the court.
“ I’m so used to being out there early in the game that it was a little weird,” he said. “At the same time, I still want to see my teammates do well and see us do well as a team.
”They did a great job of kind of keeping things going the right way for us until we got into the game.”
Appling wasted no time once he checked into the game with 14 minutes left in the first half. The senior tallied nine points in the first half on his way to a game-high 17.
A hot start from the Mountaineers’ Will Miller – who had 15 points in the first half – kept the game close early, but a 12-3 run fueled by a pair of 3-pointers from Kenny Kaminski opened the game up.
I got out there and I was confident,” said Kaminski, who had a career-high eight points. “I knew the passes were coming and I knew no one was guarding me so I thought it’s just another shot, get it up and hold your follow through and it splashed right in.”
Coming out of halftime with a 50-38 lead, the Spartans opened the second half with more defensive intensity and better ball movement – and went on a 20-5 run.
”We were a little sloppy the first half, I thought we made some great adjustments at halftime of what we were gonna do with them,” Izzo said. “We did a better job the second half, we started moving the ball a little better.”
Finishing a stretch of six games in 16 days, the Spartans now have a few days off before hosting North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Izzo said it gives the team a good chance to heal up – focusing on Harris – but he loves the position his team is in.
”I think we still got a lot of work to do, but who wants to peak in November?” he said. “We haven’t and hopefully we will keep getting a little better.”