Not having Adreian Payne in the lineup hurt. The Spartans two top scorers, Gary Harris and Keith Appling, combined to shoot 8-for-23 from the floor, and Payne would have provided a reliable third option. Payne has been consistent this season, shooting more than 50 percent from the floor and just under 44 percent from the three point line, while averaging just over 16 points per game. Not only has he been consistent, but he would have taken some pressure off Appling and Harris. With Payne out of the lineup, teams can focus on Appling and Harris without worrying about another dominant presence.
Payne not playing wouldn’t have been much of an issue if someone else had stepped up though. Michigan State’s other big men, Matt Costello, Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling, combined for just 12 points and six rebounds, which don’t even add up to Payne’s averages. Gauna did have a nice game himself with eight points and three rebounds, but it doesn’t make up for the lost production of Payne.
The game should have been a great time for players like Denzel Valentine to step up. The sophomore got the start in Payne’s position, but responded by going 0-for-5 from the floor and finished with just one point.
Payne didn’t play in the teams last game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but Kenny Kaminski picked up the slack, hitting five threes and finishing with 15 points. The Spartans needed another performance like that against the Wildcats.
The loss of Payne didn’t end up hurting the Spartans too much against Northwestern, as the Spartans had too much talent for Northwestern to compete with in the end. But if the Spartans are without Payne against a stronger opponent and nobody else steps up, Michigan State could be in trouble.