EAST LANSING - After reprimanding his team for a shaky performance against Illinois, Tom Izzo's next order of business was to fret about the possibility - or probability - of losing Travis Trice again for an extended period of time.
Trice - who missed 19 days after sustaining a broken nose and concussion in the season opener against Connecticut in Germany - went down with what is feared to be another head injury, late in the first half of Michigan State's 75-70 victory over Illinois, Thursday night.
"Trice got kneed in the head, and he's out," Izzo said after the game. "Trice ... that ain't good."
Trice missed the last two minutes of the first half and all of the second half with the injury. Gary Harris missed most of the second half with back spasms.
"Missing those two guys, that's not good for our team," Izzo said. "I have a feeling one of them is going to be out for a while."
That one would be Trice.
"If what we think happened, happened - it was a pretty severe accidental knee to the head - and if that (a concussion) happened, ... I don't know," Izzo said in a bothered tone. "The first checking I did, there was nothing good to report."
When asked for specifics about a time frame on Trice, Izzo said, "No idea. None."
Trice, a sophomore combo guard, ranks sixth on the team in minutes played, scoring (5.5 points per game) and is third in 3-point field goals and third in 3-point percentage (40.7).
Trice serves as the back-up to Keith Appling at the point. Trice also slides to the wing to provide perimeter shooting and important versatility off the bench. He is a valuable member of the rotation. Outside of Appling, there is not another player like Trice on the roster.
Harris has missed time this year due to shoulder injuries. He suffered back spasms in this game.
"He went down pretty good on a clean foul," Izzo said. "I think it spasmed up bad and he couldn't even walk so we couldn't put him back in. They tried to work on him.
That hurt us.
"To be very blunt and honest about it we are just not deep enough at the guard positions," Izzo said.
Appling had to play all 20 minutes of the second half. MSU's next guard off the bench, sophomore Russell Byrd, played seven minutes with 0 points, rebounds, assists or turnovers. He didn't make any plays, but - aside from giving up a driving lay-up on defense - he managed to log minutes without hurting the team. That was a step in the right direction for Byrd, who has had trouble logging minutes this year without causing breakdowns.
"Give Russell Byrd credit," Izzo said. "I still say his day will come. I appreciate the fact that he went in there and was ready to play and actually did some decent things defensively."
After the game, Appling said he had not yet had a chance to speak with Trice about the injury.
"Am I worried about him? Of course," Appling said. "Without him, I had to play extended minutes. If he can't come back any time soon, we have other guys that are going to have to step up and fill his role."
Freshman Denzel Valentine is the only other player on the roster who has played a few minutes at point guard this year. If Trice becomes sidelined, Valentine will become Appling's back-up.
"I don't know about Trav's situation," Valentine said after the game. "But coach said in the meeting yesterday (Wednesday) that I was going to start playing point eventually at some time because we might need somebody for five minutes or a couple of plays, but now with Travis out I might have more reps at the point. And if he puts me at the point, I'll be ready for it."
Valentine put forth his best game of the season on Thursday, with a career-high 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting while having to play crunch time minutes with Harris and Trice out.
Valentine had two assists and only one turnover.
Valentine has been a dazzling passer at times this year, but has also angered Izzo with turnover problems. Against the Illini, Valentine played his most controlled basketball of the year. That comes at a perfect time for him and the Spartans, if he is going to be called upon to take care of the ball as a reserve point guard, due to Trice's uncertainty.
Trice sustained the injury on Thursday while attempting a lay-up with less than three minutes to go in the first half. As he went up for the shot, Illinois' Myke Henry went up with him and blocked Trice's shot. While Henry blocked the shot, his knee apparently clipped the side of Trice's head. Trice went down in a heap and lay on the court while Illinois attempted to score in transition. Trice got to his feet and joined his team on defense a few seconds later, but MSU called time out to get him after the game upon regaining possession. Trice left the game and did not return.
The Spartans will have a bye this weekend, and then face Minnesota next Wednesday. Updates on Trice's situation might not come until the weekend, most likely via an official statement from the university. Izzo's next official press conference is not scheduled until Monday.