Michigan State's Adreian Payne, dunking on Sunday, scored a game-high 24 points in MSU's loss to Wisconsin. (Andy Manis / Associated Press)
East Lansing — It’s hard to look at Adreian Payne’s production on Sunday and blame him for Michigan State’s 60-58 loss to Wisconsin, 60-58, when Traevon Jackson hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds to play.
After all, the senior forward scored a game-high 24 points and it was his 3-pointer just seconds earlier that tied the game and forced Jackson to make the dramatic shot that give the Badgers the victory.
But don’t try and convince Payne he had a great game.
“I feel like I let my team down,” Payne said. “I’m disappointed with the way I played defensively. That’s unacceptable, especially for me as a leader. I didn’t set the tone defensively, and that carried over to the team.”
Payne was 9-for-16 from the field but did turn the ball over six times
However, after missing seven games with a sprained right foot, his coach was impressed with the way Payne persevered.
“I give Adreian credit,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought he played poorly in the first half, didn’t guard anybody. The second half, he was phenomenal, which makes no sense because he was tired and he was sucking it up.”
Payne said he still has had no pain in his foot after playing two games but admitted his conditioning is still a work in progress.
“I was tired in the first half, but I got my second wind,” he said. “They did a good job of getting me in and out and giving me breaks. The main thing is I’ve got to continue to get better conditioned so I can be more efficient.”
He was efficient enough to be the main option the play when he tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. With Gary Harris struggling, Payne became the obvious choice to take the shot.
“We went to him on that last shot, and boy he delivered,'” Izzo said. “I give that kid a lot of credit, missing a month and coming back and playing 32 minutes in an intense game. If there’s any question about his mental or physical toughness, I think that should be erased.”
Hard time for Harris
As well as Payne played offensively, things did not go as well for Harris, who entered the game averaging 18.2 points a game.
He shot just 3-for-20 with two of his shots coming on fast-break dunks, making him 1-for-18 for the rest of the game. After the game, Harris said he “just sucked,” and Izzo chalked it up to simply a bad game for the sophomore.
But with Keith Appling out with sore wrist and several players in foul trouble, Izzo had no intention of not going with Harris, who hit a big shot late in the second half.
“He took some bad shots yesterday,” Izzo said Monday on the Big Ten conference call. “That doesn’t happen very often, but you’ve got to remember some of the lineups we had in there at times. … Sometimes we had lineups on the floor I think he felt the pressure to score and I felt the pressure to try and get him shots. But at the same time, as he said, he took some bad shots and then the good shots he had didn’t fall. It wasn’t like he was shooting and I was telling him not to.”
Izzo was asked about the incident over the weekend in which Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart struck a fan in a game at Texas Tech. Smart has been suspended three games, but Izzo puts much of the blame on something that has regularly drawn his ire.
“I’m a social media hater,” he said. “I hate it. I don’t think there is any question everything had changed the last three years because kids never get away from it. You go there and you get chewed on, and that’s normal and you can take that. You get on the bus and you’re getting chewed on by their fans or our fans. Telling a kid not to read his phone is like telling him not to breathe. That’s a whole new problem.
“I think it’s the added pressures that these kids are under now that they never get away from is doing more damage than a fan in the stands.”