With 17 minutes left to play in the second half and his Michigan State Spartans down by 9 to Iowa, Keith Appling made a play, and holy shit, was it a spectacular one. It was a spectacular one, but not the kickstarter that so many thought it was. Iowa actually recovered from diminutive point guard Keith Appling dunking all over Melsahn Basabe to possess a lead of 12 before Sparty finally stormed back and eventually won, 59-56.
Iowa’s defense in the first half was absolutely stifling, as MSU shot only 28% from the field and went into the half down, 30-20. Fortunately, Sparty turned it around in the second half and outscored the Hawkeyes, 39-26, as frosh stud two-guard Gary Harris led the way.
Today, the Spartans will play in the Big 10 conference tournament semifinals against the Ohio St. Buckeyes, in a rematch of last year’s conference tournament title game, which MSU won, 68-64. OSU crushed Nebraska yesterday, 71-50. Forwards Sam Thompson and Deshaun Thomas led the attack, both scoring 19 points. The two schools split the regular season series, with Sparty winning the first matchup in a closely contested matchup at the Breslin Center.
Ohio St. should prove to be a tougher matchup for MSU than Iowa, although Iowa did all they could to give the Spartans genuine fits. Stopping Deshaun Thomas has to be the top priority for Izzo’s crew, as well as not allowing guard Aaron Craft to be his usual thorn in an opponent’s side. Certainly, another 18 & 10 performance from MSU forward Adreian Payne would benefit the green and white greatly, but others will have to step up, namely Appling and Harris.
The Buckeyes have won 6 straight after losing 2 of 3 by a combined 35 points, and winning this tournament would help them make a strong case for being a #1 seed. The same applies for the Spartans, who cannot come out even remotely flat, as they did yesterday. I wrote long ago that this MSU team is a rather mercurial bunch. They could just as easily take the Buckeyes to the shed as they could lose by 15 in ridiculously ugly fashion. I believe this game will come down to the 1-3 spots on the floor, and Sparty has an advantage there, in my opinion. Sparty holds on–barely–and advances to play the winner of the Wisconsin/Indiana game. Go Green. Go White.