Two weeks ago, Michigan State announced prior to their tip off against Ohio State, that Adreian Payne was questionable with a sprained right foot. The senior forward had been dealing with plantar faciitis and had been limited in practice but had not missed any games. The plantar faciitis had caused him to walk awkwardly, distribute weight unevenly and had led to the sprained right foot. To the surprise of his coaches and teammates, Payne laced up and gritted through pain to play 32 minutes against the Buckeyes that Tuesday night. He wielded adrenaline all the way to 18 points and six rebounds and the Spartans won 72-68 in overtime. Payne has not played since. Perhaps because he was able to play that night, after the diagnosis of a sprained foot, a sooner return was expected by those outside the situation. No. 3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0) has played four games without him and has felt lucky to escape all four without a loss. "We're going to run out of luck one of these days if we keep playing like this," head coach Tom Izzo said following the Spartans 71-66 win over Indiana Tuesday night. "It was hard." Not as hard as the decision Izzo now faces. MSU has survived without Payne thus far but hosts rival Michigan Saturday at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN). The No. 21 Wolverines (13-4, 5-0) are the highest-ranked team Michigan State has faced since sidelining their senior forward. The game is not only for bragging rights, it's for first place in the Big Ten. "Payne is a day-to-day deal," Izzo said late Tuesday night. "He's run twice. I don't know (if he'll play versus U-M). I don't know. I don't think he's playing, right now. He wants to play. I got the toughest coaching decision in my life to make as far that goes. Doctors have done their job, everybody else has done there's. "Me and him are going to sit down and talk about pain and talk about whether it would be right or it would be wrong." It's a decision that takes Izzo all the way back to the 1999-2000 national championship season, when his star point guard Mateen Cleaves suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and missed the first 13 games of the season. The Spartans stumbled to a 9-4 record that year without their senior at the helm but, obviously, the season's end result justified the initial struggles. The decision to rest Cleaves then gives Izzo confidence that he could make the tough call this time too, if he needs to.
Tom Izzo on Adreian Payne: 'I got the toughest coaching decision in my life to make'
Michigan Live | Jan 22