STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Michigan State forwards Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne apologized after getting into a scuffle at a hotel before Wednesday night's game that led to police responding to the altercation.
Payne finished the bizarre day by playing the best basketball of his college career. He scored 20 points in just 17 minutes of playing time, after Tom Izzo benched Payne and Dawson for the first half and the opening minutes of the second half of MSU's eventual 81-72 victory over Penn State, Wednesday.
Izzo brought both players to the podium with him for the post-game press conference, where the players apologized to Penn State and to the public in general.
Izzo said no charges would be filed following the scuffle that started with the off-campus roommates needling each other and led to a dented wall. Dawson and Payne will pay for any property damage, Izzo said.
Dawson said the scuffle began over comments he made to assistant coaches about leaving practice gear in his room. Payne apparently teased him about it, and Dawson became angry.
''It kind of got out of hand,'' Dawson said. ''We deserved it.''
Dawson (10.5 points) has started all 17 games this season. Payne (8.5 points) has started six. Payne was assigned to make his first start since late November in this game against Penn State, but blew that chance due to the incident at the hotel.
''There were a couple words that escalated into an incident, a tussle. We were tussling and bumped into a wall,'' Payne said. ''I feel embarrassed and want to apologize to Penn State and our program.''
Police Chief Tyrone Parham said officers responded Wednesday morning to a call from front desk staff at the Nittany Lion Inn of a report of an altercation on the second floor of the campus hotel, but Michigan State players had just boarded the bus for the Jordan Center by the time officers arrived.
Players were asked to come off the bus, and were questioned. Parham said what started as a verbal argument escalated into punches being exchanged.
Both players had minor cuts and declined medical attention.
Izzo said he considered benching both players for the entire game. But Dawson volunteered for himself to sit out the whole game, and that Payne didn't deserve it. Approving of Dawson's attempt to accept accountability, that's when Izzo gave both a bit of a reprieve.
Payne and Dawson sat next to each other on the bench throughout the first half, and exchanged on-court congratulations a few times during the game.
Izzo also apologized and did not condone his players' behavior. But he said the altercation drew heightened attention because of social media - at one point holding up his cellphone while speaking with reporters.
The scuffle was like other minor scraps that have occurred over the years between teammates at times, Izzo said.
''It was a disappointing thing, one of those things. ... Again don't take this wrong, but if it wasn't for the Twitter era, it would be just another day,'' Izzo said. ''Unfortunately, the fight was in a hallway.
"They (Payne and Dawson) were wrong in what they did but I hope that nobody makes a mountain out of a mole hill, because it wasn't one."
Michigan State (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) also got 14 points from Gary Harris while Derrick Nix and Keith Appling each scored 12. Travis Trice chipped in 11.
Jermaine Marshall kept Penn State (8-9, 0-5) in the game, scoring a game-high 29. D.J. Newbill added 27 for the Nittany Lions.
Payne's outstanding performance in the second half helped MSU break a tight game open, building a 16-point lead with 5:00 to play.
However, Penn State would not go away, cutting the Michigan State lead to five points in the final two minutes before the Spartans iced the game at the free-throw line.
Playing short-handed was detrimental to Michigan State in the first half, though the Spartans held onto a 29-25 lead at the break.
The Spartans started quickly, making three of their first four shots, but they went just 7-for-21 the rest of the way before halftime.
Newbill took advantage of Payne and Dawson being on the bench, attacking Michigan State in the lane and scoring nine first-half points. Jermaine Marshall added seven points for the Nittany Lions, who also hung close on the glass. The Spartans held only a 16-13 rebounding advantage at halftime.
Michigan State got nine first-half points from Harris, who was coming off a 1-for-11 performance in a victory over Nebraska, and six each from Appling and Trice.
Wednesday's win was Izzo's 200th Big Ten victory.
"That's probably the last thing I feel good about it, but that's a milestone so I'll take it," Izzo said.
With the victory, Izzo joins Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim as the only coaches in a power six conference with at least 200 wins at their current school.
Izzo trails only Indiana's Bob Knight (353), Purdue's Gene Keady (265), Purdue's Ward Lambert (228), Illinois' Lou Henson (214) and Indiana's Branch McCracken (210) on the all-time conference wins list in Big Ten history.
Izzo said after the game he is considering elevating Appling to captain status. Russell Byrd and Derrick Nix were named captains in October. Byrd doesn't play many minutes and Izzo said he is not getting enough leadership from Nix. The last time Izzo elevated a player to captaincy at mid-season was midway through the 2010 season, when he made Isaiah Dahlman a captain, joining Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas, in whom Izzo was not entirely satisfied at the time. The Spartans made a return trip to the Final Four that year.
Penn State averaged 78.5 points per game in its final four non-conference games but it averaged just 49.5 points in its first four Big Ten games.
Wednesday's game was the only meeting of the season between the teams.
Byrd's first-half 3-pointer was his first in six games. Counted on to be a weapon from the perimeter, Byrd entered the game just 6-for-33 from long range.
"It was a tough day. I told the team, you are going to have to learn to deal with distractions in life and how to handle them. I thought we did some good things.
"At halftime they did not have one offensive board, and that was impressive considering they (Penn State) are a team that has been doing a good job on the offensive boards. I was impressed by that.
"We ended the game with only seven turnovers, which means we had none in the second half. That was a positive.
"Our ball screen defense was non-existent. I was a little disappointed with that. Our guards didn't do a very good job defensively, but our bigs didn't, either. So don't give the guards all of the blame.
"Some guys did step up. We got a little more out of Trice. We did some things right in the rebounding area. Nix played pretty good. If we had done a better job on the ball screens I think it would have been a bigger win and they (Penn State) wouldn't have shot such a high percentage and you would feel a little better about it.
"But we shot decent from the three (7 of 17), shot decent from the floor (47 percent), decent from the free throw line (22 of 30), rebounded decent (37-32 edge). A lot of 'decents' but nothing great. But we got the win. The win is great."