Role players make mark against Northwestern

Kaminski, Ellis, Byrd and Co. make presence felt in win Thursday with scoring, defense and strong minutes.

Kenny Kaminski has earned his keep as a threat from 3-point range this season.

That is not the version of the redshirt freshman that Northwestern saw on Thursday in MSU's 85-70 win, though.

The Spartans forward had eight points, all in the paint and missing all of his 3-point attempts.

It might not have been the typical contribution from Kaminski, but in that it provided another instance of contributions from role players for Michigan State.

"We had Kenny come in and I think that's the most 2-pointers he's ever hit in his whole entire life and I'm dead serious," sophomore center Matt Costello said. "I'm not even being sarcastic and I'm talking high school games and all of that. He stepped up.

"Alvin (Ellis) did a good job coming in. I feel like I did a decent job and Denzel (Valentine) and (Travis Trice) took over the point and just did a great job."

In a season marred by injuries and illnesses, the Spartans have become used to have players step in and step up game to game.

Senior forward Adreian Payne, the latest Spartan to return from injury, said that is the upside to being afflicted by so many injuries.

"We don't have to worry about just that one person always having to rely on," he said. "You know that some players are going to get taken away some games and you got other players stepping up. Everybody's always gotta stay ready."

While Payne sparked the second half with 16 of his 20 points, it was a pair of bench players that MSU coach Tom Izzo pointed to as the key.

"I thought the big key to the second half was when Gary (Harris) and Denzel went out with foul trouble and Alvin and Russell (Byrd) came in and actually played very good defensively," he said.

"That made a difference."

The sophomore guard Harris played a season-low 25 minutes Thursday. He praised Byrd and Ellis for holding their own and playing good minutes, as has been expected lately.

"Everybody pretty much is coming off the bench and doing their job," he said.

He also said it is tough to consider Trice a role player anymore after starting his third straight game in Keith Appling's stead.

Still, the junior point guard Trice has been playing admirably, going three straight game without a turnover. He said the way players have stepped up throughout the season just goes to show the depth on Michigan State's roster, but getting back to full strength will be welcomed.

"Due to injuries, I think it's really showed how talented our team is top to bottom," he said. "Anytime you can lose two or three of your starters and you don't have any drop off, that's big.

"Our thing now is getting those guys back and just trying to keep this thing moving. We feel like we are getting better and we definitely want to win a national championship and a Big Ten championship."

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