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Adreian Payne: Michigan State Junior Responds to Benching by Tom Izzo

USA TODAY Sports-Mike Carter

Prior to Michigan State’s Big Ten matchup with Penn State, two Spartans players were involved in an altercation. Adreian Payne and Brandon Dawson let an argument between them turn into a fist fight that caused damage to a Pennsylvania hotel. After dealing with the police over reports of damages to both the hotel and the player’s faces, the media was addressed. The result was a benching of both players by head coach Tom Izzo.

Both Dawson and Payne sat out the entire first half of Michigan State’s game. For Dawson, it marked the first game of the season he did not start. Payne had seen a couple of recent starts and was seeing increased minutes prior to Wednesday’s benching.

In Wednesday’s game, Dawson had five points and five rebounds. Payne responded to the benching by dropping a career high 20 points, all in the second half. The Spartan junior, who led the team in scoring in the conference game, also had seven rebounds. Coming into the game, Payne was leading the team in rebounds, field goal percentage, and blocks. Payne was averaging 8.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in just over 20 minutes a game.

Clearly, Payne did the best job of responding to the fight and benching. The junior continues to see increased minutes and production. In his freshman season, Payne averaged 2.5 points per game in 9.0 minutes. Last season, Payne averaged 7.0 points per game in 17.9 minutes. This season, with an average of over 20 minutes per game, Payne is showing why he deserves to be starting games. I’m guessing this is the last time Payne sits the bench at the start of a Spartan game.

Whatever the altercation was about, Payne and Dawson both did a good job to put it behind them and play team basketball in the second half. The team looked good as Payne dominated the post down low. With the win, the Spartans now have a 4-1 record in the super competitive Big Ten. I predicted the Spartans to finish in the top five of the Big Ten in my preview. With solid contributions from all players, the Spartans should have no problem accomplishing this or more.

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