Keith Appling matched a career high Monday when he scored 25 points for Michigan State in an 82-67 win over Portland.
Now that Michigan State is ranked No. 1 in the country in NCAA basketball, Appling is probably going to have to match, or surpass his career mark a few more times this season if the Spartans want to stay at the top or near it.
It’s really a ranking that coach Tom Izzo does not want because he realizes the target is so big on his team’s backs right now. But that’s not all bad. It’s perhaps something that can be used to motivate. Appling and his teammates need to put together the type of performance that’s going to be necessary every game the Spartans play.
Chances are this team is not going to be undefeated. But in the long run the Spartans want to have a strong enough record that, whether or not they win the Big Ten Conference regular-season or tournament titles, they get a top seed which will enhance their goal of a second national title for Izzo.
Appling, as a senior and entering his third season as the Spartans point guard, has to keep his production at a high level as often as possible. It would be preferable if he excelled every night.
What Appling especially lends to the Spartan attack is being one of the top defenders in the country. But his quickness and explosiveness along with his uncanny ability to attack the rim will always come in handy.
Appling seems to always be available to make the clutch plays at the right time for MSU.
It’s hard to say how much longer the Spartans can stay undefeated and be No. 1. If Appling stays at the top of his game their perfect record might continue for a long time.