Earlier this season, Michigan State was rolling and seemed prime for another Final Four run.
Then came Senior Night.
On a night that celebrated the careers of Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, the Spartans looked healthy and played well for the first time since that early season dominance in an 86-76 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Michigan State (23-7, 12-5) was money from the field, hitting 58 percent of their shots, including 10 of 17 from behind the arc. Travis Trice came off the bench and led the Spartans with 17 points. In his fifth game back from injury, Appling played his best game since returning, scoring 12 points and dishing out three assists. Payne added 14 points and four rebounds to finish off his career at the Breslin Center.
Iowa (20-10, 9-8) was paced by Roy Devyn Marble, who scored 24 points to go along with five assists. Aaron White was the only other Hawkeye to score in double figures as he chipped in 10 points.
In an injury-riddled season for Tom Izzo‘s squad, Thursday night’s win just might be the turning point that gets this group of Spartans back on track. With the Big Ten regular season crown already awarded to arch-rival Michigan, the Spartans could have easily folded.
That’s never the case with Izzo at the helm.
No senior class of Izzo’s has ever failed to reach the Final Four. Appling and Payne have one final shot this year to keep that remarkable streak intact. For now, the Spartans finish off with a battle against Aaron Craft and Ohio State on Sunday. That game and Wisconsin‘s game at Nebraska will determine who gets the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament next week.
If Thursday night’s bounce-back was any indication, teams better not sleep on the Spartans. Remember, they were the No. 1 team in the country for a reason.