Michigan State might get the No. 1 spot from the NCAA basketball polls next week after its victory over Kentucky earlier this week. But Friday night, Michigan State learned the potential hazards of being the No. 1 ranked team. The Spartans held off Columbia 62-53 in what would have been a stunning upset.
The Spartans, if they haven’t before, realized the tremendous worth of Adreian Payne, who scored 26 points and had 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-10 senior didn’t allow the Kentucky blues to get him into a letdown. Instead, Payne played extremely good basketball from start to finish and the Spartans avoided what would have been an embarrassing loss.
It showed the Spartans how tough it is to go undefeated, even in November. Basketball on the collegiate level can be so emotional as fans and players focus so much on the polls.
Payne will probably have to come to the rescue for the Spartans several times this season. He has the maturity and experience to dig deep down and play a full game no matter who the opponent might be. Without him, the Spartans obviously would have sustained a stunning loss. With him, the Spartans can hold their heads high for upcoming games.
A preseason All-American, Payne deserves all the high-profile billing he gets. He has picked up his game several notches from last season when he appeared in 36 games, started 24 and averaged 25.6 minutes, 10.5 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds a contest.
Friday’s game proved how valuable Payne is to the Spartans in their drive to be national champs. It also proved that he can be counted upon to get the job done.