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March 9, 2012

Green: 'We just have to keep it going'

INDIANAPOLIS - Michigan State shook off the cobwebs from a slow finish to the regular season with a sizzling performance in the Spartans' first game of the Big Ten Tournament, ripping Iowa, 92-75 on Friday.

Draymond Green had 21 points and 10 rebounds but tag team partner Adreian Payne was the big story in helping the Spartans overcome a sluggish first few minutes to take a 55-39 lead at the half and roll to an easy victory.

Payne had a career-high 16 points. He had 12 at the half, with six of them coming on put-backs. For the game, Payne was 7-of-8 from the field with seven rebounds.


"I thought we got a lot out of Adreian Payne early," said Tom Izzo. "Adreian did a great job. He blocked some shots, he got some rebounds. We made a couple of adjustments on those ball screens right off the bat, after they hit something like three 3s early, and he adjusted to it.

"It was the most focused I've seen him. He is communicating better on defense."

Communicating better to the point that Izzo almost didn't recognize his 6-foot-10 sophomore.

"I said is that Adreian or an imposter?" Izzo joked.

But Izzo had a feeling something like this was coming.

"Our two bigs had great practices and we felt the number one key of the game was transition defense because they (Iowa) run so well, and the other one was rebounding because they had rebounded so well against Illinois and those two things were big for us today," Izzo said.

No. 8-ranked Michigan State (25-7) advances to play Wisconsin in Saturday's Big Ten Semifinals. The Badgers defeated Indiana 79-71 on Friday.

The Spartans were sharp, coming off losses to Ohio State and Indiana which cost MSU the outright Big Ten title.

"I forgot that we had lost two games in a row for the simple fact that it is a brand new season," Green said. "I completely forgot about it, knowing that we were 0-0 and had new life and could start all over. Like coach said after the game we are 1-0 now and one step closer."

Despite being one of the best NCAA Tournament teams in the country over the last 10 years, Michigan State has not won the Big Ten Tournament since 2000.

"We just have to keep it going," Green said. "I think part of that was when we ratchet up on the defensive end, everything changed for us. That's what's been good for us throughout the season.

"In the last couple of games that we did lose, in the first half against Ohio State we defended very well and we had a 17-point lead, and against Indiana we didn't defend very well at all and we lost by about 17. I think that is going to be the key for us, to keep on defending and staying consistent on the defensive end. We didn't start out good today and tomorrow if we don't start off good it could cost us so we need to make sure we keep on nailing that into the guys."

Payne's performance helped alleviate the loss of freshman Branden Dawson, who is out for the year with a knee injury he sustained during Sunday's loss to Ohio State.

Senior guard Brandon Wood replaced Dawson in the starting lineup. Although Wood doesn't have the size, length and strength of Dawson, he performed well as the primary defender on Iowa's top scoring threat, Matt Gatens. Gatens was held to only one field goal on 1-of-6 shooting and 10 points, after averaging 20-plus in Iowa's last four games.

"What did impress me today was our passing and our unselfishness for three-fourths of that game," Izzo said. "I thought we were very unselfish."

Extra passes led to better and better shots as Michigan State finished the game shooting 58.2 percent from the field.

Keith Appling had 12 points and six assists and Wood had 10 points for the top-seeded Spartans.

Freshman guard Travis Trice logged 24 minutes, the most since MSU's victory over Florida State on Nov. 30.

Trice came back almost miraculously from re-injuring his ankle in practice on Wednesday.

Trice, who has battled ankle and groin ailments through the second half of the season, logged 20 or more minutes in eight of MSU's first 11 games. But he hadn't played 20 in a game since late January.

With Trice back, Appling was able to move to the two guard for nearly half of his 31 minutes.

"It's a lot easier (for me)," Appling said, of having Trice back. "It gives me a break. I get to come off the ball some and I can kind of coach him. It makes my job easier as opposed to playing on the ball for all 40 minutes and having to check the other team's best player."

Trice scored 9 points, going 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

Appling played fast and under control as MSU routinely went with a smaller, three-guard look on the perimeter.

"Keith played a great game today," Green said of Appling. "That was big for us. He made all three of his shots and the big thing for me was that he had six assists and only two turnovers. I think he played a great floor game. When I went out of the game he really took the game over and got us some great things."

A reverse layup by Derrick Nix, then a putback by Green on Nix's missed free throw put Michigan State up 26-22 midway through the first half. A 3-pointer by Trice pushed the lead to 31-22 and forced Iowa to call timeout.

The Spartans made 21 of 30 shots in the first half and 6 of 11 3-pointers. MSU finished 8 of 18 from 3-point range.

Three Spartans scored in double figures in the first half, with Payne's 12 points leading the way. Payne came into the game averaging just under seven points.

Iowa made 12 of 26 shots overall and 5 of 11 3-pointers in the first half, a respectable showing that normally would keep a team competitive. But Michigan State did everything right. The Spartans committed only four first-half turnovers and had 10 second-chance points on five offensive rebounds. Iowa didn't grab its first offensive rebound until 2:39 remained in the first half.

The Spartans led by as many as 28 points in the second half.

Josh Oglesby scored 20 points for Iowa (17-15). Zach McCabe and Roy Devyn Marble added 13 points each for the Hawkeyes, who defeated Illinois on Thursday.

Iowa entered Friday's game having won four of six games, including wins against Indiana and Wisconsin.

"I thought we started off kind of sluggish and we weren't very good defensively early and then these two guys (Green and Keith Appling) picked it up," Izzo said. "After it was 20-20 I thought we really started checking better.

"We had to get a lot of guys in, guys that haven't played, because of the foul trouble that he (Green) had. Austin Thornton was sick again and he was struggling. And Nix and Payne were in foul trouble and all the sudden Byrd comes in and makes a shot and we got some minutes for him. And we got Trice a few more minutes, which I was amazed he was able to play after the ankle thing again on Wednesday.

"We have a lot of work to do now defensively but offensively we moved the ball and played pretty well."


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