Michigan State Opens 2014 NCAA Tournament as a PAYNE in the HEN 93-78
The NCAA tournament had not had a 40 point game scored by single player since Stephen Curry did it against Gonzaga in 2008. Well Adreian Payne just did that becoming the first Spartan since Shawn Respert dropped 43 in 1994 when he put in 41 for the Spartans tonight.
Payne was the man. He made 17 of 17 free throws; he was three of four from the three point line and was 10 of 15 shooting. Add to that eight rebounds and he was a force that the Blue Hens had no answer for.
Blue Hen star Devon Saddler said of Payne, “It made it difficult to stop Adreian Payne because he’s a big that can step out and shoot 3’s and he’s good inside too. So, they were setting the wrong way ball screen and it was confusing the defense a little bit and he kept getting open shots. So, it was difficult to stop that.”
Could Payne sense this game coming? The Blue Hens had made it clear that they had to stop him to win and they couldn’t. He said after the game that, “I didn’t really feel like I was going to have a game like this. I just came out just trying to play and win. And coach said he was going to come to me early and that’s what he did and my teammates did a great job at getting me the ball so I can get baskets in easy ways.”
Branden Dawson to exception with the people who thought this was a rare performance by his teammate. Dawson said, “Well, honestly, this is not the first time seeing Adreian having an impact on a game like this. It goes back from the Texas game. He had great game and he came out and made shots. Tonight he was 17 17 from the free throw line and it all starts with our guards. They find him in rhythm and he just made shots. So, I think as a Senior, we’re not surprised at his performance because as a Senior you should come out and play like this and Adreian just showed the world that he’s not ready to go home.”
For Payne he also broke Gregory Kelser’s NCAA tournament record for points scored in a game. Kelser had 34 in 1979 against Notre Dame. Izzo constantly talks about leaving a footprint and this was a big one by Payne. He said of breaking the record that, “I would say that leaving a legacy. I talked to coach about that. The other day I sent him a text and we’re just trying to continue to win games and we played this weekend and we are here to win the weekend and that’s the main goal.”
Izzo poured out the appreciation for his senior afterwards. Saying that, “I’m really proud of AP, but what I’m proudest of him about, and he did send a text and he’s going to do this and do that, you know, he didn’t take that many shots. He took 15 shots. But he did what he if he would do it all the time, he established himself inside, got to the free throw line where he’s very good and got some confidence there. And then, like it was with Keith earlier in the year, when he was passing and not turning it over, his shooting went up. When AP starts inside out all of a sudden his game goes up.”
He continued by saying, “I don’t think I take him for granted. I think sometimes he’s got to realize that he’s really a good player and if he just plays inside out, let’s the game come to him, which I thought he did tonight, figured out what they could do, he’s right, our scouting report was that’s what we were going to try to do.
He doesn’t always follow it, not in a negative way, necessarily, but you know, he followed it and good things happen for us, good things happen for me, good things happen for the players and great things happen for him. So, it was a good deal.”
Payne is not one prone to many words. That is why Izzo was asked to share the general theme of Payne’s text. He didn’t hesitate. “Adreian is not a guy that sends long texts. He just talked about the things he learned and he wanted to finish strong and it was kind of a deep text for him about how he’s going to just try to stay focused and do whatever I need him to do. Ironically, when he makes that decision, I think him and I work well together. And my staff and tonight was an exceptional night. Let’s give him credit. I wouldn’t give any blame to Delaware, I mean, I think it was you that said it, was he in another zone? Yes, that wasn’t even in the 0zone, he was in Pluto and beyond. I mean, he was way out there.”
He added with a smile that, “But, he really did play under control. There was hardly a bad shot. I thought the worst he did was the first three shots of the second half. We said we’re going to go right back inside and he is jacking shots. But, he doesn’t take that many, he’s not a selfish kid. You’re happy when you get a text that kind of says, coach, I’m going to be with you, and then when he has some success, everybody’s happy and it works out.”
Prior to the game I had written that Delaware was very vocal that for them to win they had to beat the Spartans on the boards. They didn’t. The Spartans reigned supreme with a 42-24 edge and Izzo declared it a big key. “It was. We thought we had to go inside. We said we have to stop penetration and not foul. We didn’t do that part of the game plan very good. We said we had to rebound well. I thought we did that part very well for us. But, we’re getting better at rebounding the ball and it’s not one of their strengths. But, we’re getting better because we got Dawson and Payne back and those guys are 17, 18 rebounds out of our lineup for eight or nine games.”
Next up for the Spartans they will face on Saturday the Harvard Crimson. Coached by former UM head coach Tommy Amaker that is sure to be a fun contest. Amaker is one of college sports good guys and has always had a great relationship with Izzo.