Spartans hobble away with win over Gophers
by Joe Rexrode, USA TODAY Sports
EAST LANSING – Travis Trice sat on the bench in street clothes, his return to action for Michigan State uncertain while he experiences concussion-like symptoms.
Gary Harris started but was affected, visibly and often, by back spasms that first hit last week. Branden Dawson twisted an ankle. Adreian Payne missed a chunk of the second half after suffering a bloody nose.
Finally, Keith Appling left the court Wednesday night with 1:17 remaining, clutching his right shoulder and helped off in pain.
Michigan State is, in one word, a mess.
But the No. 8 Spartans keep winning and surviving, improving to 19-4 and 8-2 in the Big Ten with a 61-50 win over No. 18 Minnesota. And Appling’s return to the court in the final seconds seemed to induce a large exhale from the fans at Breslin Center.
Before he got hurt, he had 14 points, pairing with Harris’ 15 to lead the way for a comeback win. Andre Hollins led Minnesota (17-6, 5-5) with 11 points.
The Gophers led, 20-18, after a dreadful offensive half for both teams, closing on a 14-5 run in the final 6 minutes to take the lead. The lead reached 25-20 before consecutive three-pointers from Appling and Harris returned the lead to the Spartans and started them on a 21-4 run.
It was 41-29 MSU with less than 10 minutes to play, and the Spartans appeared safe. But Dawson and Harris were limping and Payne was in the locker room, and the Gophers went on an 11-4 run over 4 minutes to get within five.
Payne returned and had his first two baskets of the night to halt the run, but the lead was all the way down to four when MSU’s closer, Appling, zipped to the basket with 2:35 left to make it 51-45.
That started the Spartans on a clinching 7-0 run, capped by a Harris three-point play.
Joe Rexrode writes for the Detroit Free Press, a Gannett property.