Hobbled Spartans handle North Florida

Michigan State uses opening 21-4 run to roll over North Florida on Tuesday as the Spartans are waiting to get back to full health.

Putting together a starting lineup has become a greater adventure as the weeks have gone by for Michigan State.

With injuries, illnesses and ailments popping up with each week, it has gotten to the point where coach Tom Izzo just had to put a starting five together for the Spartans' 78-48 win against North Florida.

It wasn't the starting five he expected, as sophomore Gary Harris wound up not being able to go and the same for junior Travis Trice.

"We've had so much adversity," Izzo said. "I found out last night they didn't think they could go and they tried (Tuesday). It is what it is. It's been really hard on our team because who's starting, who's this, who's that.

"I just came in today and decided those guys wouldn't be starting if they could play and we've just gotta get a team together and go from there. It's been hard."

Trice missed the game with blisters on his foot, while Harris sat out as his right ankle continues to be an issue.

"Travis tried to go to the shoot around (Tuesday) and he did layups and sat down," Izzo said. "I don't blame him, but I just mean when he says he can go, where's he going? I made a decision before the game they weren't playing win, lose or draw."

With Matt Costello still out with a case of mono and Harris not feeling fully comfortable yet, Izzo patched together the group of Keith Appling, Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Alex Gauna to face the Ospreys and the group came out hot early.

"This game we came out fast, we came out and we attacked them," Dawson said. "Coach said he was surprised the way we did come out with 50 points in the first half."

For the second straight game, Dawson sparked MSU with his play and aggressiveness early as the team jumped out to a 21-4 lead and rolled to a 50-19 halftime advantage.

"Dawson, to me, is MSU's guy," North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. "He gives you that one person that can put it on the floor and go get rebounds, guard multiple positions all the time."

Dawson finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. He opened things for the Spartans with a big slam on an alley-oop from Appling and the Spartans got rolling. Valentine came up with a pair of baskets quickly and Alvin Ellis again made an impact defensively with a steal and a 3-point play.

Payne had another high-scoring game with 19 points to lead the Spartans on 7 of 11 shooting from the field.

Valentine had 11 points and Russell Byrd had a career-high 10 points.

The Spartans now will travel to Texas to play the Longhorns on Saturday and hope to have Harris and Trice back as both said they hope to play and Trice gave more assurance.

"I'll be back (Wednesday)," he said. "I'm even thinking about coming back tonight and working out."

Harris said if everything goes right, he hopes to play Saturday and "that's the plan."

Either way, Izzo again faces the task of putting together a lineup different than the opening game five.

"Matt won't even be making the trip," Izzo said. "I have no clue (who will play). None. No hiding from you guys, no hiding from Rick, I have no clue.

"I'm done worrying about it. I've spent about a week now worrying about these things I can't control."


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