Trice, Valentine teaming up to run offense

Pair of guards filling in for Appling and taking advantage of opportunities presented by bevy of injuries this season.

Michigan State football employed the "next man up" philosophy throughout its Rose Bowl run when a player went down.

With the latest injury on the basketball court sidelining Keith Appling, the Spartans have turned more to "next men up" to fill in the point guard spot.

The combination of Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine has been running the MSU offense and will continue to do so for the third straight game against Northwestern on Thursday.

"(Our chemistry) is good," Trice said. "We already look for each other on the fast break, but it helps when you've got two guys that have played the point before and are naturally guards.

"It makes it a lot easier getting other people involved."

The pair has done just that since Appling went out with a right wrist injury, having 18 assists to just four turnovers in the past two games. Trice has played 69 minutes in the past two games – 69 minutes of turnover-free basketball.

"Travis has done a terrific job," sophomore Gary Harris said.

The junior guard said he has been looking to take advantage of the extra playing time and has been working on his floor game, but the key to the lack of turnovers has been his approach.

"I don't really need to force things," he said. "It adds a sense of calmness when you know you're playing the whole game, so I don't even try to force things, let the game come to me and don't do anything too crazy."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said both Trice and Valentine have been making the most of their opportunities lately. Valentine, who has 15 points and 20 rebounds in the past two games, said gaining experience at four different positions has been valuable.

"Defensively, I have to guard point guards," he said. "I have to guard big men. It just gets me used to doing anything I have to do just in case we run into a team that has versatile players in the tournament."

Izzo said he has been pleased with Trice's play, but wants more in transition and get out and push the ball the court.

Still, the coach said he has been pleasantly surprised with Trice's play on both ends of the court, as is Harris.

"He's done a great job offensively and defensively," he said. "He's kind of done a good job knowing what he can do and trying to do those things more and better, just to fill in for Keith by not trying to be Keith."

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