The TSX Files: MSU Players hint at Problems

"Maybe it's something else," says one Spartan starter. "It's not my place to say certain things" ...

--Senior G Durrell Summers, mired in a miserable slump, had made just 13 of 50 shots (26 percent) in his past seven games through Feb. 27, including 1 of 4 in Sunday's loss to Purdue. He has been in single digits in all those games, after scoring in double figures in 18 of his first 21. But Summers isn't so sure he deserves all the blame.
He said MSU isn't running as many plays for him lately, and he said the focus on what's wrong with the players may be misplaced.
"We've tried to fix the defense, we've tried to fix the offense, (and) the energy," Summers said. "Maybe it's something else. It's not my place to say certain things. We've tried to fix everything with us."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've only got a couple games left. Why not give it your all?" -- Michigan State senior G Kalin Lucas, pleading with his teammates to give max effort down the stretch.

--Purdue's 67-47 win at Breslin Center on Sunday was the most lopsided home defeat for Michigan State since a 72-50 loss to Duke since Dec. 3, 2003. The Spartans have only suffered a handful of double-digit home defeats in the years between, including a 12-point home loss to Purdue last season.

--Michigan State got 42 points from its bench Wednesday night as it pounded Iowa 85-66 with 18 from Keith Appling, nine from freshman C Adreian Payne and eight from sophomore C Derrick Nix, to rout Iowa 85-66. Kalin Lucas scored 17 and Draymond Green 12 for the Spartans, who achieved their largest margin of victory in Big Ten play -- and just their second double-digit victory. The Spartans led by as much as 23 in avenging a 20-point loss at Iowa on Feb. 2 and taking sole possession of fourth place in the Big Ten.
--Wednesday was Senior Night at Michigan State, with Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Mike Kebler honored after the game. All three kissed the floor at center court, as has been the tradition since Shawn Respert did it in 1995. Before the ceremony, Lucas became the program's all-time leader in free throws made, passing Paul Davis. Lucas has made 481 free throws. He is also just 12 points from moving into fifth place on MSU's all-time scoring list.

Keith Appling scored 49 points in Breslin Center in the 2009 Class A state title game for Detroit Pershing, showing the variety of skills that would make him a McDonald's All-American and a coveted Michigan State recruit.
A couple days before Michigan State pounded Iowa 85-66 on Wednesday, Tom Izzo approached Appling and asked him if he remembered that day. Izzo was trying to remind Appling that he can, indeed, score the basketball.
It worked for one night. Appling had a game-high 18 points in the victory, giving Izzo hope that he can get more offense out of Appling as the Spartans fight for an NCAA Tournament bid.
"Appling hitting those shots was so big," Izzo said of a 7-of-8 showing, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. "He really has been working on his shooting."
"I've been working on my shot a lot," Appling said. "The coaches have been saying my shot is kind of flat, so I tried to put more arc on it. ... This was a huge confidence booster."
The Spartans need that confidence now. This team has struggled to score points with senior guard Durrell Summers in a slump and junior forward Draymond Green limited by illness and injury. Kalin Lucas has been carrying the offense, and Appling's last double-digit scoring game came on Jan. 15.
Appling came into Wednesday averaging 5.6 points a game, and if the Spartans could count on 10 or so each night, they'd have a better chance of getting more wins.

--at Michigan, March 5
KEY MATCHUPS: Every Michigan opponent of late has had a tough time dealing with the dynamic backcourt tandem of PG Darius Morris and SG Tim Hardaway Jr. Morris had 17 points and eight assists in the first meeting. PF Jordan Morgan also is coming on lately and deserves the Spartans' attention.

--Senior PG Kalin Lucas got a break Sunday -- playing 36 minutes after averaging 37.8 minutes in his previous eight games. Tom Izzo has said he wants to get his star more rest, but that isn't likely considering the position the Spartans are in. Lucas tweaked his right ankle late in the first half Sunday, but he looked fine in the second half and said it did not bother him.
--Junior F Draymond Green has another ailment to overcome. Green, who is just getting back from a stomach virus, rolled his left ankle early in Wednesday's win over Iowa. He left the floor for a few minutes for treatment but was able to return to the game -- visibly hobbling at times. Green still managed 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists in just 16 minutes.
--A stomach virus that hit Draymond Green before a Feb. 19 win over Illinois is gone, but it left a mark. In three games since picking up the virus, Green has scored a total of 19 points, making 6 of 22 shots. Tom Izzo said Green's conditioning has been impacted the most, because he was not able to practice much during the stretch.
-- Tom Izzo still has high hopes that sophomore C Derrick Nix can become a great player, and much of that will hinge on Nix's ability to get and stay in shape. Once as high as 340 pounds in high school, Nix was down to 267 before the season but now is back in the 290s. Still, Nix has game and showed some of it in Wednesday's win over Iowa. He played just nine minutes but scored nine points -- including a 5-of-5 showing from the line. In the process, Nix elevated his free-throw percentage from 47.5 to 53.3. As a freshman, he shot 27.1 percent.
-- The Spartans sure could use freshman G Russell Byrd right now, but they'll have to wait until next season. Michigan State is the worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten in league games, made worse by a 1-of-11 performance from deep in Sunday's loss to Purdue. Byrd is a 6-7 sniper who has the best-looking jumper on the team, but he his redshirting because of a broken foot that required two surgeries to heal. Byrd is healthy and practicing now, and his deadly 3-point shot has been falling with frequency for the scout team.

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