By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Had Michigan State senior Adreian Payne, averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, been healthy enough to take the floor against No. 10 Michigan Saturday, the result might have been different.
However, that is not reality, and the seventh-ranked Spartans are moving on rather than dwelling on the loss. While head coach Tom Izzo continues to provide updates on Payne, he does not sound optimistic for Payne’s return.
“He’s day-to-day,” Izzo said. “He ran yesterday a little bit more with more weight on it, but very doubtful for tomorrow. How he does Wednesday and Thursday will determine the rest of the week.”
In describing how Payne helps the Spartans, Izzo can go on and on. He has post moves. He shoots free throws well. He is a better passer and best defender than last season. His versatility creates opportunities for other players.
“There’s no question he is our most versatile player along with one of our best,” Izzo said. “It is what it is and we’re used to playing with it now, and we’ve just got to move on.”
After a tough loss in East Lansing, where the Spartans fell 80-75 to the Wolverines, Michigan State does not get much of a break. Tuesday the Spartans travel to play No. 15 Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 16-4 and 5-2 in the Big Ten.
Iowa’s four losses have all come against teams ranked in the Top 25.
Since the loss of Payne, who has now missed five games, the Spartans are leaning more heavily on sophomore Denzel Valentine.
“He actually played pretty well against Michigan, just didn’t score, and we need him to score more than two points a game,” Izzo said. “That was the only part that was bad. He’s defensively playing better, he’s rebounding the ball very well … I’ve been pleased with Denzel, it’s just we’ve put him in some tough positions.”
Told the state of Iowa is all abuzz for the upcoming matchup, Izzo agrees the attention is solidly positive.
“I think it is a badge of honor,” Izzo said. “I think it’s a privilege, it’s a compliment and one that even though it has some tough spots to work around, I think it’s a position I’d like to be in a lot. I have great respect for [Iowa coach Fran McCaffery] and the job he’s done. They’ve done it the right way. They’ve built it up, stayed the course, suffered a couple losses over a couple years, but now he’s got a veteran team that plays the way he wants.
“They play hard,” Izzo added. “They play quick. Hopefully we’ll be up for the task.”