East Lansing — Adreian Payne was in his familiar position on Tuesday night — sitting on the Michigan State bench with his sprained right foot in a boot.
It was the fourth straight game the senior has missed as No. 3 Michigan State managed to stay unbeaten in the Big Ten with a 71-66 victory over Indiana at the Breslin Center. The Spartans haven’t lost in 11 games and have managed to do so over the last two weeks without Payne’s 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Payne has been getting closer to returning and has started running again, but even with No. 21 Michigan coming to town Saturday, coach Tom Izzo still isn’t sure Payne will be able to play.
“Payne is still a day-to-day deal,” Izzo said after the game. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think he is playing right now, but he wants to play. I’ve got the toughest coaching decision in my life to make as far as that goes. It’s gonna be me and him. The doctors have done their job, everybody’s done their job. It’s gonna be and him sitting down and talking about the pain, then we’ll talk about what will be right and what will be wrong.”
Payne has not played since Michigan State defeated Ohio State on Jan. 7. He did not start that game and Izzo said beforehand he didn’t think Payne would play. But he came off the bench to play 32 minutes and score 18 points.
Payne had been bothered most of the season by plantar fasciitis in his right foot and Izzo said the training staff believe the sprain came from compensating for the pain of the original ailment.
“I’ve never been a guy that has hid who is injured or not,” Izzo said, “and I’m telling you it is day-to-day, and I’ve said it could been day-to-day for two weeks.”
Trice coming around
In the three games Travis Trice had played since returning from the flu, he had made just one 3-pointer in six attempts. But after losing nearly 15 pounds while missing roughly five days with the illness, he is just now getting back into shape.
Against Indiana, Trice provided a spark with two first-half 3-poitners and finished the game with 10 points. He said he’s healthy but still hasn’t quite gotten back in shape.
“It’s just fighting through the fatigue,” he said after playing 16 minutes. “The hardest part when you’re out for so long, not many people realize, I was out 5-7 days and it will take about 10 days to get it back in shape. Your legs get tired and your body gets tires. Tonight I felt a lot better.”
Izzo is counting on Trice getting back to the form he was early in the season.
“Right now Trice is nowhere near where he was two-and-a-half weeks ago,” Izzo said. “He was really getting good defensively and was stronger. But that’s the way it is.”
Trice said he is down to about 165 pounds after playing at 175 early in the year.
Not Appling's night
Keith Appling struggled for the first time in weeks, scoring just eight points (2-for-10 shooting), including a 4-for-9 performance at the free-throw line.
And as much as Izzo has praised Appling over the past few weeks, he wasn’t letting his senior point guard off the hook.
“The problem when you have all these injuries is you start playing guys to death,” Izzo said. “You know, he looks tired and maybe he is tired. We didn’t let him practice one day, but I don’t think that has anything to do with coming out and running the first play of each half and running it wrong. I didn’t see the focus there with some of our guys and that was disappointing.”
Tuesday’s game was just the fourth time this season Appling failed to score in double figures.
While Michigan State played without Payne, Indiana did not have senior Will Sheehey, who sat out with an injured ankle. Sheehey entered the game scoring 10.4 points a game.
“I’m proud of the way we played without Will,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, “because we weren’t certain that was going to be the case until today, from the injury that he sustained in the Northwestern game the other night. It was just too much of an injury to be able to play today. And the bottom line, everyone who went into the game impacted the game.”