January 19, 2013
Payne continues surge as MSU tops Ohio St.
EAST LANSING - At the start of the season, no one would have laid odds in Las Vegas on the idea that a 6-foot-10 junior forward would step into the role of tone setter for Michigan State's basketball team.
But that's just what Adreian Payne has become over the course of MSU's last four victories.
Payne, who had scored in double figures in the three games prior to the No. 18/17 Spartans' thrilling 59-56 victory over No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday, continued his energy-based, intensity-laced play with a 14-point, 5-rebound night that also saw him get the brunt of the defensive work in MSU's effort to contain OSU superstar wing Deshaun Thomas.
"I've just been trying to bring the complete package, the way I did in games before and the way I did today, as far as shooting the ball and defending,'' Payne said on Thursday after practice as if almost predicting his performance on Saturday.
While Thomas had one his best performances of the season with a hard-earned 28 points to lead all scorers, it was Payne's energy and effort that helped guide MSU to success over Ohio State.
Previously plagued by what could only be described as a lack of focus due to fatigue and his inability to sometimes really tune in to the task at hand, Payne, who has averaged 14.5 points and 5.2 rebounds over the Spartans past four games has become dialed in to what he must do to ensure the Spartans of victory - on both ends of the floor.
"I was moderately happy,'' said MSU coach Tom Izzo, tempering his excitement about Payne's play of late. "For me to even think of putting Adreian on a guy like (Thomas), that shows how far he has come. It was a lot to ask Adreian to do and he still scored some points.''
Payne, who has also gone 3-for-3 on 3-point baskets during the stretch has scored on 22-of-28 shooting (79 percent) from the field in the past four games that have included wins over Iowa, Nebraska and Penn State.
"He's just been playing pretty hard these last couple of games,'' said junior guard Keith Appling. "He's brought a lot of energy and made a lot of things happen.''
From Payne's point of view, the rise in minutes and production that have become a catalyst for MSU's recent success, don't seem like a big deal.''.
"I was (just) focusing on my role on the team,'' Payne said. "I wanted to bring a lot of energy to the game and play with a lot of passion.''
As of MSU's victory on Saturday night, Payne has scored in double figures in 10 contests already this season, including a career-high 20-point outburst in MSU's win over Penn State on Jan. 16 in which he played 17 minutes, all in the second half.
WISE BEYOND HIS YEARS: Freshman guard Gary Harris only had eight points in MSU's victory Saturday night but it wasn't so much the quantity as it was the quality of the way the 6-4 first-year player obtained his points.
Better known as a jump shooter with excellent range, Harris - who entered the game leading MSU in 3-point field goals made and attempted - was not getting the open looks from the perimeter he has become accustomed to this season.
Seemingly bothered by the length of OSU's defenders and what he perceived as a couple of non calls by the officials when he was fouled during a couple of jump shots, Harris showed his maturity by making himself a viable offensive option in other ways.
By taking his defender off the dribble for layups on all four of his baskets.
"I felt like I was getting hit on my arm on the shot and I felt like they weren't calling it but if they don't call it, you really couldn't complain because it's not a foul, so you have to make adjustments and I just had to keep playing,'' Harris said. "I couldn't get down on myself. I was a little frustrated at first but I couldn't let that affect me. I had to just come out in the second half and be ready to play.''
His coach enjoyed his reaction and his performance too.
"We didn't even tell him that (about driving to the basket instead of shooting outside),'' Izzo said. "The guy has intelligence beyond belief for a freshman, and he did check and he did get a couple of rebounds. Gary did some good things.''
HACK-A-DESHAUN: Izzo said he couldn't remember ever employing the strategy he was prepared to pull off on Saturday to make sure Thomas did not get a good look at a game-tying 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime with less than eight seconds left.
But after Saturday's nail-biting win over the Buckeyes, Izzo admitted that he would have fouled Thomas in order to make sure he didn't get a good look at a shot he had been hitting with frequency all night.
With 7.9 left in the game after Appling hit two free throws to put the Spartans up by three, everyone expected OSU coach Thad Matta to call a play that would gotten Thomas open for a 3-point attempt. Instead, sophomore guard Shannon Scott seemed to be rattled by the situation, dribbling the length of the court after the inbounds only to toss up a harmless 3-point heave as the buzzer sounded once it clanked off the rim.
"If they would have handed it off to him we would gone ahead and fouled him,'' Izzo said. "I don't always do it but I wasn't letting him take a shot unless it was it was way up there in the mountains and it still might have gone in, so we would have fouled him.
"I just have that much respect for him. It wasn't a normal guy, it was him, and at 6-7 I just didn't want to give him the opportunity. So if he would have come off it we were going to get him, otherwise we were going to try and deny him the ball.''
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