Attention-drawing Payne returns in win

Senior comes back after missing almost a month and his teammates couldn't more happy about it as he scores 12 points in Michigan State's 82-67 win.

Set to field questions following Michigan State's 82-67 win against Penn State, Adreian Payne added a little flair before he was ready to talk.

"I gotta do my media with the glasses on," he said, laughing as he slid on sunglasses.

With such light-heartedness, you could say being back feels pretty good for the senior forward, who hadn't played since Jan. 7.

"It felt good to be back out there and running," he said. "It was just mentally, I told coach (Tom Izzo) I might be a little bit slow laterally and that was the main thing. Once I got out there I told coach probably forget about it and I'll just play, but it I feel anything I would have him take me out. …

"I'm just going to try to go out there and continue to bring a lot of energy to this team."

Payne had 12 points in 18 minutes in his first action after missing seven games with a foot injury. While he said there was a little soreness in the foot, he wasn't thinking about it during the game.

He was more concerned with making an impact and bringing intensity, but he did a lot more than that for the Spartans on Thursday night.

"He draws a lot more attention off me and puts it on him," center Matt Costello said. "That's tough for him, but it opens up the floor more. How we were scoring more at the beginning of the season, hopefully we can get back to that.

"Gary (Harris), Kenny (Kaminski) getting more open shots because people are dropping down on A.P. It just adds another dimension to the team."

Kaminski might have benefited more than any other Spartan – statistically, at least. In his first significant playing time with Payne in the lineup, Kaminski had a career-high 19 points and hit his first five 3-point attempts for the second time this season.

"He's such a big post presence," Kaminksi said. "When he's in the game, it really opens up me because my guy sags off me a little bit and there's too much space and I can get a shot."

While Michigan State was delighted to have Payne back in the lineup, it was without senior point guard Keith Appling. Appling missed a game for the first time in his four years because of a wrist injury he has been battling for a lengthy time and Izzo said he had no idea when Appling will be ready to play.

But a fifth different starting lineup in Big Ten play didn't stop the Spartans from having their second 9-1 Big Ten start since 1999.

In Appling's absence, Travis Trice stepped in and had seven assists and no turnovers. Even bigger was Denzel Valentine, who posted his second double-double of the year with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go with six assists and four steals.

"Early in the game, he was a bit out of control," Izzo said. "We took him out for a little bit, settled him down a bit and then I thought he played phenomenally."

Behind the combined 13 assists from Trice and Valentine, the Spartans had 22 assists on 28 made field goals, reminiscent of early games this season.

"That is the way we played earlier in the year," Izzo said. "We had a lot of assists for every game – we were leading the country at one time."

Costello (10) and Harris (14) gave the Spartans five players with double-digit point totals, but the difference came back to Payne.

His teammates acknowledged the difference he makes and he saw more of it as he missed time and watched from the bench.

"I was out there and when I was watching the game, I could see some things out there," he said. "I know that when I'm in the game, it's a little bit different.

"I just try to continue to go out there and make my presence felt."


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