AUSTIN, Texas – There they are, the Michigan State Spartans who are supposed to challenge for a national championship this season.
There he is, the senior forward who could lead them there – before making a whole bunch of money playing the game of basketball.
Adreian Payne played like a top-10 NBA pick Saturday, scoring a career-high 33 points and spearheading a second-half takeover in No.5 Michigan State’s 92-78 win over Texas.
We went to him just about every time, MSU coach Tom Izzo said of Payne, and he delivered just about every time.
The Spartans (10-1) entered the game with questions about their health and interior toughness and left it with satisfying answers.
Gary Harris (ankle) returned after missing three of the past four games and scored 19 points off the bench, and MSU handled the big Longhorns (10-2) inside, three days after Texas did the same in an upset win at No.14 North Carolina – and 17 days after North Carolina did the same in an upset win at MSU.
We kind of embarrassed ourselves at North Carolina, and (the Longhorns) came out and beat North Carolina at their place, said Harris, whose right ankle gave him no issues. So this was a statement game to know that, North Carolina, they’re a good team, but that’s not the (real) Michigan State team who they beat. We haven’t really been ourselves all year. We’re getting back to our toughness, back to dominating the boards.
Branden Dawson had 11 points and aided MSU’s 43-33 rebounding edge with 10 of his own. Denzel Valentine had eight points, a career-high 11 rebounds – and a lob off the backboard for a Dawson dunk to highlight MSU’s 56-point second half.
Travis Trice returned from an infected blister that kept him out of Tuesday’s win over North Florida and scored 13. And MSU got it done despite a rough day for senior point guard Keith Appling, who fouled out with four points, two assists and two turnovers.
Appling, whose right hip is bothering himgathered his teammates after the game and thanked them for picking him up. Izzo said that was maybe as big a part of this as the win.
But the day belonged to Payne, who was 10 for 13 from the field and 11 for 12 from the foul line and scored the most points for MSU since Draymond Green had 34 in 2011 at Gonzaga.
I think I’m playing the best I’ve been playing all my life, Payne said.
He’s an elite talent, Texas forward Jonathan Holmes said of Payne.
I’d hate to play against him, Harris said. Glad we have him on our side.