Go-to guy late in games a focal point for MSU

Tom Izzo, Spartans looking for more late in the game -- and putting the ball in Keith Appling's hands to dictate the offense.

If Adreian Payne could redo his 3-point attempt against Ohio State on Sunday, he would.

"I would pump fake," he said of his shot with 28 seconds let in a 68-67 game.

As it was, he took a contested shot that he had to alter in the air and missed. The Spartans lost 69-67.

Such late game situations and having a "go-to guy" are one of the biggest concerns for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

He asked his team who the go-to guy was for the Spartans, but "nobody could really give me a good answer." The same went for his coaching staff.

With injuries, the player who would have the ball late or in big situations has changed throughout the season.

"We didn't know who was going to be the go-to guy just because of circumstances all year," sophomore Gary Harris said. "At the beginning of the year, it was Keith (Appling), then it's A.P., then A.P. goes down and then I'm supposed to do more.

"Now, we have everybody back and we are just trying to figure out what we are going to do and what's going to work out best."

The Spartans have the benefit of having multiple weapons that can take a shot late in the game, mostly Harris and Payne. Izzo noted a ball screen is a preferred play, while many teams might drive to the hoop and hope for a foul or a pass for an open shot.

But with the pick-and-pop ability of Payne, Izzo said "we've got a great combination." But he wants the ball in one player's hands: His senior point guard Appling.

"I still think that he's the guy that I'm going to go to," he said, "that's going to have to have the ball in his hands, make a decision whether Gary gets it or A.P. gets it or he gets. That's what we're going to try to work on the last couple days (before the Big Ten Tournament)."

As would be expected, Appling said he would love to have the ball late in the game, but also that it doesn't matter who gets the ball late.

"We have so many guys that are capable of doing different things," he said. "If coach puts the ball in my hands, I have to make the right decision at the end of the game."

On Tuesday, the Spartans worked on those situations late in the game and late in the shot clock. Harris said the focus was with Appling driving and making plays off him.

"We are just trying to work out the kinks and figure out who is going to have the balls in their hands and what we are going to do," he said. "I felt like we did a good job of that."


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