The big guys in the paint and Keith Appling rescued MSU when things got tight in the second half against Oakland. The rest of the Spartans showed that the loss of Gary Harris could take some time to work through.
Even though MSU won 70-52 against Oakland and survived in the second half against Boise State without Harris, the freshman guard is proving vital to what the Spartans want to accomplish this season. He’s been their second-best shooter from 3-point range, he doesn’t turn the ball over and he plays sound fundamental defense for a first-year player.
MSU rotated players at the 2-guard against Oakland to find Harris’ replacement. Russell Byrd went 1 for 5 from 3-point range and committed four turnovers. His minutes vanished in the second half as Denzel Valentine settled in after a shaky start with three turnovers. Appling rotated there at times. Branden Dawson had to move to the small forward spot and turned the ball over five times.
Twenty turnovers as a team. Just 3 of 11 shooting from 3-point range.
Oakland’s poor shooting certainly helped overcome some of MSU’s own deficiencies. But until Harris returns from his sprained shoulder – and even when he returns, because those type of injuries can sometimes linger and affect shooters – the Spartans will need to find that complimentary perimeter presence for alongside Appling.
Maybe it was just a turkey hangover from Thanksgiving that caused some of that lethargy, but MSU will need to tighten things up for Sunday when Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Breslin Center.