January 9, 2012

Appling leads Spartans into New Year

EAST LANSING - Tom Izzo is pleased with where his team is at heading into the second half of the 2011-2012 season, but the Michigan State men's basketball coach understands well that fortunes can change quickly in the Big Ten.

"I think we've beaten some pretty good people," said Izzo, "but I don't think anybody feels good about where they are right now because everybody is kind of confused about how college basketball has gone with the Villanova's the Texas's, the teams that are normally up there. I struggle with our own league when you look at Minnesota and Wisconsin right now being 0-4 and 1-3 after the preseason. It is hard to figure out where anybody is.

"But the things that have been constants for us, our defense is the best it has been in years. I think we are ranked in the Top 15 in field-goal percentage defense and that's great. Now maybe the best part of it is that we are going to get home for a little bit. It seems like we haven't been home since a couple of days after Christmas. And I am looking forward to those incredible crowds we had after Christmas."

Michigan State will continue to play at a high level and enjoy much of the success it has during the past 14-games if Keith Appling continues to perform at the level he has during the first three games of Big Ten play.

Appling, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore from Detroit, is the second-leading for the Spartans behind Draymond Green with 12.5 points per game. The former Pershing High star leads Michigan State in assists (3.5 apg).

"He is starting to push the ball better," said Izzo of Appling, who made the transition from shooting guard to point guard this season. "I think he is becoming one of the better defensive guards in the whole country, much less in our league."

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