ANN ARBOR — It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans (22-7, 11-5) as they’ve lost three games in a row dating back to their Feb. 19 loss to the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers at home. While the Big Ten Championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament seem to both be out of the picture for the Spartans, their focus going forward should be on getting ready to make a deep run in the postseason.
One of the wrinkles the Spartans need to get ironed out is the play of point guard Keith Appling. The junior is shooting 25 percent (12 of 48) dating back to Michigan State’s Feb. 12 game against Michigan and is averaging 2.6 assists and 2.8 turnovers during this five-game span.
After the Spartans 58-57 loss to the Michigan Wolverines on Sunday night — in which Appling had a key turnover that led to a Trey Burke dunk and Michigan victory — Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo continued to show his confidence in his point guard.
“Im really not worried about Appling,” Izzo said. “I was more last week. He had a good week in practice, he pushed the ball better than he has in a long time, he played pretty good defense.
“Even though he had that turnover at the end, remember, he’s the guy that caused their turnover to get the ball back to us.”
Appling had a huge defensive play on the baseline on Michigan freshman Mitch McGary with 32 seconds left to give the Spartans the ball with the game tied at 56.
Appling went 3 for 9 and had nine points, six rebounds, five assists and two turnovers in the Sunday’s loss, and while he hasn’t had the recent success that he would hope for, he remains to have faith in himself.
“Things don’t go your way all the time, it’s basketball,” Appling said. “Some nights the ball is going to go in and some nights it’s not. Things just haven’t been going my way lately, but I’m a mentally tough person, so I don’t let it bother me too much. I just watch the film and try to grow from it. It’s nothing you can dwell on and beat yourself up about.”
Michigan State still has two regular season games left and the Big Ten Tournament before they head into the madness that is March, so there is still time for the Appling and the Spartans to get everything figured out.
“There is still a lot of basketball left,” Appling said. “So we just got to give it our all and see how it comes out.”