Keith Appling didn't play in Thursday's victory over Penn State because of a sore right wrist, the first time he has missed a game in his Michigan State career, and was limited in practice on Friday. (Dale G. Young)
East Lansing — Adreian Payne was no worse for wear on Friday afternoon, a day after playing in his first game in a month because of a sprained right foot.
That was part of the good news for Michigan State. The status of senior point guard Keith Appling for Sunday’s trip to Wisconsin, however, remains a bit murkier. He didn’t play in Thursday’s victory over Penn State because of a sore right wrist, the first time he has missed a game in his Michigan State career, and was limited in practice on Friday.
“He was out here and walked through the first (part of practice) and he’s down on the treadmill a little bit right now and said it was a little better,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But they didn’t expect after the manipulating and all the stuff they did to it, they said two days. So that will be (today), I think will be the big thing. But I’m optimistically pessimistic on it, I guess.”
In other words, Izzo had no idea on Friday night if he would have Appling back by Sunday.
“I just think this is a big road game for us and hopefully Keith can play for some of it,” Izzo said. “But I question my gut so we are going to have to get Alvin (Ellis) more ready and maybe move (Russell) Byrd back to some 3 instead of playing at the 4. Just play some musical chairs and see what we can come up with.”
No. 9 Michigan State has won its last five over Wisconsin, including two straight on the road. The Spartans will go into Sunday’s meeting with Payne saying he felt almost no discomfort in his right foot on Friday morning.
“It’s not as sore as I thought it would be,” he said, “and I guess that’s a good sign.”
Payne played 18 minutes against Penn State and that is expected to climb with each game he plays.
While Payne said he has no problem coming off the bench, Izzo said he is contemplating the idea of getting the 6-foot-10 forward back in the starting lineup against Wisconsin.
“He didn’t start today (in practice), but we want to see how he feels now,” Izzo said. “Thank God his foot seems to be no issue. His conditioning was a little bit of an issue and getting back into the groove of guarding people the way we guard people now compared to the way we guarded before. So he’s gonna have to watch some film tonight and spend some time on that, but I was pretty pleased with most of the stuff he did.”
The Spartans also caught a break when junior guard Travis Trice, who started for Appling, twisted his ankle in the second half last night. It looked bad initially, but Trice said he knew after walking on it he was fine, and he returned to the game minutes later.
Trice went through the entire practice Friday and said a little extra ice was all he needed, not that Izzo was planning to give him a break.
“We threatened Trice and when he walked by me,” Izzo joked. “I didn’t even look at him. I don’t know if you saw, I said, ‘You’re playing.’ It is no problem, he just tweaked it and that’s good for us.”
Izzo also said junior forward Branden Dawson, who has missed four games with a broken right hand, is working hard to get back on the court.
“He’s been running hard, I mean, real hard,” Izzo said. “My strength coach was so pleased with him he told me to hug him the other day. I said, ‘Not yet.’ But he has been working his butt off so I’ve been proud of B.J.”
President Obama was at Michigan State on Friday and Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio got a chance to meet him before he signed a federal farm bill at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center.
Izzo, who met the president two years ago when Michigan State played North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego, was amazed how much he knew about the Spartans.
“He knew about Payne and his injuries and our other guys,” Izzo said. “I’m sure he got briefed a little bit, but as I heard last week when we played Iowa, he was trying to watch the game instead of (going to the State of the Union. I can appreciate that and I told him that. I said, ‘You know, I got a lot people wanting me to do certain things, too. It’s nice to do what you enjoy doing.’ He was good. He asked me what the rest of the year looked like and I told him. I just ended it with, ‘I’d like to come visit you at your house.’ That’s what I’d like to do. He was great. Mark and I enjoyed it.”
Obama is a big basketball fan and every year fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket that has been part of ESPN’s tournament coverage. Izzo said the president told him he has plans to have the Spartans going a long way.
“He promised we’ll move up a little bit in his bracket this year, too, if we’re healthy,” Izzo said. “I told him, that was fair.”