Looking just like a team that hadn't play in 10 days, Michigan State got off to a lethargic start Saturday against Oakland.
Finally senior Keith Appling made a layup and got things moving in the right direction for MSU in its 67-63 win at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
" I think the ten days off really did affect us," coach Tom Izzo said. "It was ten days that we got some practice in but, Payne got two days of the ten and Appling got about six, bumped the hip a little bit in that game.
"I thought (Saturday) it would come down to the start and (Oakland) started pretty good."
Once Appling, who finished with a team-high 21 points, factored into the scoring – and boosted by Dawson's responding to a benching against North Carolina – the Spartans started to put it together.
The senior guard opened the second half with five points and eight of the Spartans' first 10 to build the lead as he looked for his shot.
"It was plain to see," Appling said. "I only took two shots in the first half. I knew I had to be more aggressive if we were going to have an opportunity to win the game. My teammates found me and I knocked shots down."
The Detroit native was again the key cog when the game was tied 50-50 with less than eight minutes to go as he hit a deep 3, found Dawson for a shot-clock beating layup and converted an and-one in transition to stretch the MSU lead to eight.
"The game was kind of close and we just wanted to make some things happen and different guys responded to that," Appling said. "We were able to stretch it out a little bit."
"Trice's 3 was the backbreaker," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "That was outside the NBA line and that was one second on the shot clock."
Dawson and Payne both recorded double-doubles for the Spartans. Payne had 20 points and 10 rebounds – his third such game this season. Dawson had 16 points and 13 rebounds, including five offensive boards.
Freshman Alvin Ellis stepped in and played a career-high 19 minutes with 16 coming in the second half.
The Spartans were without shooting guard Gary Harris who was out with a right ankle injury. Center Matt Costello did not make the trip and hasn't been practicing because of mono. Sophomore Kenny Kaminski also did not make the trip and is suspended indefinitely until Izzo "takes care of all his business."
Izzo said he hopes Harris will be back in this week and has "no clue" on Costello's return.
The coach also said he can't deny his concern with his team's energy level moving forward because of injury problems.
"It's been a miserable 10 days cause you lose and want to go to war and can't go to war because you don't have the bodies," he said. "It's hard on them and hard on us."
The worry, however, does not extend to the team beyond the injury concerns.
"Am I worried about this team? No, because I'm not playing with the team that is my team," Izzo said. "I'm worried about getting everybody back and then you figure it will take some time when they get back."