EAST LANSING - Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo thought his senior forward Adreian Payne might have learned something about himself on Tuesday night during the No. 5/4 Spartans' victory over previously unbeaten and No. 3 Ohio State.
"Pain is something you gotta fight through but a lot of people learned something about Adreian Payne tonight,'' Izzo said. "I think he probably learned a little bit about himself tonight too.''
Payne begs to differ.
"Honestly I didn't because I've always been a tough guy,'' Payne said. "In high school I tore my labrum in practice and I played the next day. I had plantar fasciitis here and it was hurting me and I had to find a way to play, and I found a way and now I've got this injury and I'll just have to find another way to play so (even though) I'm injured I'm still trying to find a way to play and help this team.''
That 'tough guy' came off the bench nearly seven minutes into the game on Tuesday to contribute 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including a 2-for-3 finish from the beyond the arc and grabbed six rebounds in 32 minutes of play for MSU (14-1, 3-0 Big Ten).
Impressing both his coach and teammates.
"There's no way Payne . . . I mean, I get to the building and he's not playing. The doctors worked him out a little bit and I said, 'don't warm up,' and I said 'see if the adrenaline gets going when the game starts.' He said he wanted to play so give him credit. I told him three days ago I don't care if it's football or basketball, when your team needs you to go, your seniors go. My seniors were warriors. Keith (Appling) sucked it up and so did Adreian.''
Playing on a painfully sore right foot, the same one that the versatile 6-foot-10 big man had plantar fasciitis in, Payne performed with all of the character and courage you would expect from a fourth-year player in Izzo's program.
"The decision (to play) was totally his,'' Izzo said, giving Payne extra credit. "I talked to him before, he shot around a little bit and when I walked into to the gym, to be honest with you, he was in tears. He said, 'I can't go.'
But despite the pain, the preseason first team All-Big Ten selection came up huge during numerous segments of MSU's 72-68 overtime win.
"It was a tough decision,'' said Payne, who added that he sought the guidance of his high school coach pregame before deciding to play through the pain. "But once I got down here and saw that coach was emotional and worried about what was going on with my foot, I just told him, 'I'm going to give it a shot.' I felt that the team, they wanted me to play. I knew the team needed me so I just wanted to go out there and give it a go, try to come out with a win and make sure the team felt good about it.''
Payne's performance was good enough for Izzo, whose team has already suffered through a myriad of injuries, to even find some humor after the game.
"I think I'm going to hurt the other ankle tomorrow because those tip dunks and all of the things he did, he was pretty active,'' Izzo said.
Although he looked pretty mobile throughout the game, Payne reminded everyone that it wasn't easy.
"It still hurt, it was painful the whole time (but) I just wanted to come out and give it my best shot,'' said Payne, an Ohio native, who just couldn't miss the chance to play against his homestate team. "It meant a lot for the program, and not just for me but for the coaches and this team.''
The meaningfulness of the game was evident throughout Tuesday's ESPN-televised contest.
While his start when he entered the game with 13:13 left in the first half was less than spectacular - Payne missed a 3-pointer, two layups and a jumper on his first four shots - he found his rhythm in the final three minutes of the first half, hitting back-to-back jumpers during MSU's 7-0 run to close out the half.
He caught fire again in the second half after missing his first shot early.
After blowing a layup at the 18:20 mark, Payne found his groove after checking back in with 15:35 left in the contest.
During a 13-5 run that gave MSU a 15-point lead with 10 minutes left to go, Payne scored six points, including two thunderous followup dunks after a couple 3-point misses by Denzel Valentine.
And when the Spartans surrendered the lead at the end of regulation and needed an extra five minutes to upend the Buckeyes, it was Payne' four points and fellow senior Keith Appling's six that pushed the Spartans to victory in OT as MSU outscored OSU 14-10 to win the game.
"With Adreian, his three was huge there in overtime,'' said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, whose team fell to 15-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play. "He's a great player. We know the block he likes and we know what he is capable of doing. He had a couple of big offensive rebounds.''
Actually, just as important as his point total was the example Payne and Appling set for teammates like redshirt freshman forward Kenny Kaminski, who added a big 3-point basket in overtime to help MSU secure the victory.
"It shows heart. It shows his heart,'' Kaminski said of Payne. "The guy was fantastic for us tonight. He made some great rebounds, had some awesome buckets down in the middle and he really stepped up when we needed him to.''
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