Keith Appling's touch from line helps Spartans withstand sloppy game
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is getting tired of his team's generous nature and giving spirit over the holidays.
The No. 15 Spartans (5-1) committed 20 turnovers, 14 in the second half, and barely survived a 63-60 scare from Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday.
"I think our guys are going to be great citizens when they get done with basketball, because the Christmas season is lasting all year," Izzo said. "They're giving gifts away.
"Give them a lot of credit -- I thought they played harder than we played. But I can't give anybody credit for some of those. It's undisciplined and inexcusable."
Keith Appling scored 19 points and helped his team hang on for its fifth straight win. Appling, who has scored at least 17 points in every game except one this season, was 4 for 11 from the field. But he made other plays at key times, hitting 10 free throws and adding six rebounds and five assists.
"We have to change our mindset and know that we have to take care of the ball," Appling said. "Once the Big Ten season starts, those turnovers will lead to large deficits that we probably won't be able to overcome."
Appling did have help from several teammates. Branden Dawson had 11 points and Brandan Kearney scored a career-high 10 off the bench. Adreian Payne had 10 rebounds.
Elfrid Payton had 20 points for the Ragin' Cajuns (2-4). Shawn Long added 16 points, all but two coming in the first 10:03 of the game, and Kevin Brown had 14 points.
"Most teams won't have a big man who can step out to the perimeter and guard me, so I tried to exploit that early," Long said. "I think I did a good job. Later, I rushed some shots. I should have slowed down a little bit."
Louisiana-Lafayette made just 11 of 21 from the foul line, which may have cost it a major upset.
Long missed on a drive and Payton missed a contested 3 in the closing seconds that would have tied it, and the Ragin' Cajuns' rally from a 10-point deficit fell short.
"It means a lot that we were able to do this," Long said of the missed opportunity. "We have a lot of young guys on the team. I'm a freshman and our point guard only a sophomore. If we keep this up, we might be ranked next season."
Appling's two free throws put the Spartans up 60-50 with 3:09 left. But more Michigan State's miscues kept the outcome in doubt.
Brown hit a 3-pointer with 1:42 left to pull the Ragin' Cajuns within four. His putback after another turnover cut the deficit to 62-60 with 56.3 seconds remaining.
Michigan State led 33-27 at halftime behind eight points from Kearney, one more than his previous career high. But with several chances to blow the game open, turnovers became a major issue again.
"Don't overwrite anyone. I've got some guys who must be reading their press clippings," Izzo said. "We're not playing very well, other than Keith. That's just the way it is."
The Spartans have won 65 of their last 66 non-conference home games and haven't lost at home in November since a defeat by David Robinson-led Navy 26 years ago.
Backup point guard Travis Trice, lost to a broken nose and concussion in the season opener against Connecticut 16 days ago, could be back for Wednesday's game at Miami. Leading scorer Gary Harris is expected to miss at least two more weeks after spraining his shoulder Tuesday.
"I don't like the way our team is at all," Izzo said. "I'm just trying to figure how much of it is due to our preparation or lack thereof with the guys who are injured. But that doesn't have anything to do with some of my key guys turning it over four or five times, starting in the first minute of the game."
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