East Lansing — The revolving door of injuries continued for No. 9 Michigan State on Thursday, but it hardly seemed to matter as the Spartans turned in one of their best performances of the season.
Senior forward Adreian Payne was back for the first time in seven games while senior guard Keith Appling took a seat, missing a game for the first time in his career as he rested a sore right wrist.
But thanks to a career-high 19 points from Kenny Kaminski and a near triple-double from Denzel Valentine, Michigan State cruised to an 82-67 victory at the Breslin Center. Valentine finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while Payne scored 12 in his return and Gary Harris managed to overcome a shaky shooting performance to add 14 points. Matt Costello added 10 points and six rebounds for the Spartans.
“The No. 1 key on the board before game was to bring your lunch buckets and hard hats,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We needed to get back to playing the way we play. But I thought we were up by 25 and playing some of our best basketball at both ends of the court.”
The victory allowed Michigan State (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) to keep pace with Michigan atop the conference standings by dominating the glass — it won the rebounding battle, 42-30 — and shooting nearly 50 percent (28-for-60).
Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill were two bright spots for Penn State (12-11, 3-7), which entered the game winners of three straight. Frazier scored 22 points for the Nittany Lions while Newbill added 17.
But it was hardly enough for a balanced Michigan State attack that saw five players score in double figures. Valentine was all over the place, recording the double-double, and Travis Trice, staring in Appling’s place, handed out seven assists without turning the ball over.
The biggest beneficiary was Kaminski.
“I came in with the mind-set that someone needed to step up offensively,” Kaminski said. “I came to the gym early and was here about two hours earlier than the team and continued to get shots up, just building my confidence. At this point shooting is all about confidence and I never felt when the ball left my hand today I was gonna miss. I just told myself it was going to make the shot.”
Izzo felt Valentine was out of control early in the game but settled down and played “phenomenal.”
He even rewarded the sophomore by allowing him to stay in late in the game and hit one one more shot for a double-double.
“I just told him, ‘Thank you’ for keeping me in there because he usually doesn’t do that,” Valentine said. “He let me stay in there and I got the bucket and he said, ‘You owe me one.’ ”
The entire team owes one to Payne for getting back on the floor after missing seven games with a sprained right foot. He played 18 minutes and was 5-for-9 from the field.
Afterward he said he felt great while adding he would continue to wear a boot on his foot in between games.
“Once I got out there I knew I would probably forget about it and just play,” Payne said. “I told them if I felt anything, I would tell them and they could take me out.
“It feels good. The muscle is a little sore in my foot from not using it in a while, but I’ll continue to try and rest it in my off time and through treatment get it stronger.”
Penn State had very few answers for the Spartans. The Nittany Lions shot just 5-for-22 from 3-point range and 36.8 percent overall.
“I thought we’d push them a little bit and it just didn’t work out,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “That’s a high-level team. You’ve got two starters out and they go that deep into their bench.”