Spartans finding roles as they get healthy

MSU toughs out win against Minnesota, but continues to battle injuries/illnesses.

For the second time in a week, Michigan State was taken to overtime by a Big Ten opponent.

And for the second time, the Spartans were victorious in the extra frame.

After handling Ohio State in the extra frame Tuesday, the Spartans did it again against Minnesota, scoring the first nine points on their way to a 87-75 win.

Minnesota point guard Deandre Mathieu hit a slicing layup with 1.7 seconds left to force overtime after MSU's Gary Harris missed a pair of free throws with less than 10 seconds left.

The Spartans, who were without star forward Adreian Payne, won the extra session 16-4 to cruise to the win. It was another tough win for a team that still is figuring out its identity as players get healthy and return to form.

"We are going to try to tough it out and win ugly, win someway as long as it continues to be a W we are going to have to live with this until we get everybody back," coach Tom Izzo said.

After deciding he could play Tuesday against OSU, Payne decided his foot was too sore to play, Izzo said. Guard Travis Trice, who had not practiced recently, played 19 minutes.

It's just the latest injury/illness issues for the Spartans who seem to have new health concerns each week. It has left those who can play looking for their roles that change game by game.

"It's taken a lot of time (to find roles)," center Matt Costello said. "Going back to people being hurt, people being sick and not having the whole team there all the time, that doesn't help the situation.

"Once we get everybody back, we can start meshing and doing better."

It took a while to get things clicking against Minnesota on Saturday, as the Spartans came out of the gate slowly while the Gophers hit five of their first seven 3-point attempts.

It was redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski that kept the Spartans in the game early, hitting 4 of 4 3s in the first half.

"Kaminski did do a good job," Izzo said. "He did give us a lift at a point in time when we weren't very good."

Kaminski had his other 3-pointer – finishing with a career-high 15 points – during a 15-0 run that brought the Spartans back from a 53-43 deficit early in the second half.

The Spartans took advantage of a stretch in which the Gophers went more than 13 minutes without a field goal to take the lead, but guard Malik Smith hit a 3-pointer to pull within two. After Harris missed his potentially game-clinching free throws, Mathieu forced overtime.

Keith Appling, who matched Minnesota's Andre Hollins' game-high 24 points, hit all eight of his free-throw attempts in overtime to lead the Spartans to the win.

"We just picked up our intensity defensively," Appling said. "Once we stopped those guys form scoring, we went on the other end and got a basket.

"That was the game changer really, our defense and how we picked it up."

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