Valentine, Trice step up for Spartans

With Keith Appling on the bench, Michigan State gets big contributions from the pair of guards in his stead.

For the first time since he set foot on campus, Keith Appling found himself watching an entire Michigan State game from the bench.

Fortunately for the Spartans, he was watching Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine do well filling in while he rested an injured wrist.

While Valentine posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, more important was the pair combined for 13 assists and had just two turnovers.

"That was really big," Trice said. "Anytime you lose your starting (point) guard who plays a lot of minutes and does a lot for us, it forces a lot of guys to step up.

"I feel like we did a great job of that."

Appling has been battling a nagging wrist injury since he first hurt it against North Carolina on Dec. 4 and has reaggravated it a couple times.

Coach Tom Izzo said there is no doubt the team needs Keith, saying he has been playing on grit. Izzo also said there is no timetable on Appling's return at the moment, so the responsibility could fall to Trice and Valentine again Sunday at Wisconsin.

Valentine said the key for them is to just play with poise and show experience in "picking up Keith."

They did that and Izzo called Valentine's performance "phenomenal" and said it was one of his better games – even though it took a push early on.

"Early in the game, he was out of control there for a little bit," Izzo said. "He was just going in there throwing the ball up. We took him out and settled him down."

The sophomore guard said the conversation with Izzo was colorful, but it worked.

As did Trice and Valentine in filling in for Appling, but also getting a glimpse of their potential roles next season once the senior has moved on.

"We kind of discussed that before the game and said that's how this is going to be next year," Valentine said. "We played pretty good. We can always play better, but I think we played pretty solid."


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