LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State probably will not have one of its best players in the lineup against Indiana.
It might not matter.
The third-ranked Spartans (17-1, 6-0 Big Ten) have won 10 straight games, the last three without Adreian Payne, and don’t expect him to play in Tuesday night’s home game against the Hoosiers (12-6, 2-3) because of his sprained right foot.
“I would say doubtful,” coach Tom Izzo said Monday.
Izzo also said the standout senior is “a question mark” for Saturday’s home game against No. 21 Michigan.
Michigan State plays Jan. 28 at No. 10 Iowa and Feb. 1 against Georgetown in New York and might miss Payne in those games, too.
“There’s some of me that doesn’t see him playing for two weeks,” Izzo said. “If it gets into that next week, I mean, a win against Georgetown is as important as a lot of wins, but it’s not as important as a Big Ten win.”
Payne, who would’ve likely been a first-round pick if he entered the NBA draft after last season, isn’t the only key player who has been out or limited because of injuries this season for the Spartans.
Leading scorer Gary Harris has been slowed by a sprained right ankle. Travis Trice, usually a top reserve, missed a game because he was sick. Starting center Matt Costello had to sit out of four games because of mononucleosis.
Despite the slew of health-related setbacks, the Spartans keep winning.
“I’m proud of my team for it,” Izzo said. “I think we’ve battled through things. It’s been a fist-fight effort. It’s been hard on everybody.”
Just three players — Keith Appling, Denzel Valentine and Gavin Schilling — have played all 18 games.
Michigan State’s 16-point win Saturday night at Illinois gave the team its best record with only one loss in school history.
“We wanted to make history,” Valentine said after the game.
Izzo is more interested in leading the Spartans to a second national championship and a third overall for the program.
If the banged-up team can get and stay healthy, Izzo likes its chances to cut down the nets April 7 in Texas.
“I made no bones about it at the beginning of the year that this is one of those teams that I think has a legitimate shot,” Izzo said. “And, I think that we’ve proven that we do. We could lose three games in a row and still prove that we do.”
Payne, though, is a key piece.
The 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward averages 16.2 points — making 44 percent of his 3-point shots — 7.7 rebounds, more than one assist and a block per game.
Izzo said Payne does more than produce statistically. Payne makes teammates better with his presence on the court and he forces opponents to play Michigan State differently because of his skills at both ends of the court.
“He just has such an affect on other players like no big guy I’ve had,” Izzo said.
Associated Press writer David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.
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