Finding the positives for Michigan State in its 75-52 blowout over Michigan on Tuesday wasn’t hard. What was hard was trying to narrow down what were the most impressive.
Keith Appling and Gary Harris won the battle of the guards with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. hands down. Appling had 11 points and was in Burke’s face all night while Harris was outstanding, scoring 17 points and hitting five 3-pointers.
Hardaway was awful, hitting just one of his 11 shots while Burke was really the only weapon the Wolverines could count on, scoring 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Michigan State’s big men also dominated. Derrick Nix scored 14 while Adreian Payne played outstanding defense on Glen Robinson III, who was held to a season-low two points. Mitch McGary, Jon Horford and an ailing Jordan Morgan had no answer for the bigger Spartans. And Branden Dawson was effective again until leaving the game late after taking a shot to the face.
But what might have been one of the more impressive performances of the night came from freshman Matt Costello. No, his eight points and six rebounds won’t make most stories, but for a player who was hurt on the eve of the season and has struggled to find any consistent time, it was a glorious night.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “I’m really just trying to get my groove and find my spot on this team. It’s staring to come together a little bit. To contribute with the rebounds, points, layups free throws and what not, that gives me the confidence and I hope gives the coaches some confidence in me to put me in when they can.”
They put him in on Tuesday and he responded in 11 solid minutes. And when he nailed two free throws late in the game, he had a career-high in points.
“It was sweet,” he said. “It was one of the biggest games all year in my mind. Michigan recruited me hard and I still have people pushing and pulling on why didn’t I go to Michigan and why did I go to Michigan State? This is the right choice and I’m happy with what happened.”
Where Costello’s playing time goes from here remains to be seen, but after the way he played against Michigan and last weekend at Purdue, the Spartans are feeling a lot better running him out on the floor.
–Izzo said after the game that he thought Dawson would be fine after getting hit in the nose and suffering a cut lip. The sophomore was in the locker room after the game talking to teammates but did not speak to the media.
”I do think he’s gonna be OK,” Izzo said. “He was pretty dizzy on the bench, but they don’t seem to think it’s a concussion. He got it pretty good … but he’s a tough kid.”
–Harris was outstanding again, even though he admitted he is still not 100 percent while battling through back spasms. However, he did say he felt as good as he has since injury the back on Jan. 31 against Illinois.
–Travis Trice missed his third game while recovering from a head injury suffered in the Illinois game. Denzel Valentine spelled Appling at the point and had another promising game.
“I was pleased with Denzel,” coach Tom Izzo said. “He does enough to make me feel good and does enough to make me not feel as good. He bounced back after getting picked off in the first half and made some big plays.”