Keith Appling, the team's smallest starter, is making some of the biggest plays for No. 15 Michigan State.
The Spartans, though, might need his clutch contributions more than ever with another starting guard sidelined Friday night when they play Oakland in the Spartan Showcase.Michigan State (3-1) suffered a major blow to its backcourt Tuesday when freshman guard Gary Harris sprained his left shoulder one minute into a 74-70 victory over Boise State.Harris, the team's leading scorer at 16.0 points per game heading into the contest, is expected to be out two to three weeks."It's a shame. Gary was playing so well, and then he goes down with a freak injury," coach Tom Izzo said. "We need to get him back as soon as his injury allows, but he is one of our toughest players."In the meantime, Michigan State still has Appling to help carry the load.The 6-foot-1 point guard scored a team-high 22 points against the Broncos, including a three-point play in the final minute to help the Spartans rally from a five-point deficit with just over eight minutes remaining.The junior also added seven assists, five rebounds and three steals while playing all 40 minutes.Aside from scoring just four points in a blowout win over Texas Southern in the tourney opener on Nov. 18, Appling has averaged 19.3 points, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals."Keith's game has changed so much from last year," guard Branden Dawson said. "He's very mature and patient."After finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and three steals against the Broncos, Dawson ranks among the nation's top five with 4.0 steals per game.The Spartans, who have won three straight since a season-opening loss to Connecticut, shot 57.8 percent from the field, but they'd like to get back on track from the free-throw line after making just 16 of 25."We had the injury, poor foul shooting and foul trouble," Izzo said. "Yet, somehow, we found a way to beat them."Oakland (2-3) found a way to snap a three-game skid Tuesday when Travis Bader scored 23 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute, to key a 71-69 victory over Texas Southern.Bader, who made seven 3s in the win, is among the nation's best with 20. He's averaging 19.0 points.Corey Petros also stayed hot with 18 against Texas Southern. The sophomore big man has put up 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and shot 64.7 percent from the field over his last three games.If the Golden Grizzlies are to pull the upset, they'll have to do something no other team has done throughout the Izzo era -- win a November game at the Breslin Center. Michigan State is 47-0 all-time at home in the season's first month under Izzo."This game is a big, big deal for us," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "Being able to play Michigan State on a regular basis has been one of the foundations that has built our program."Michigan State, which is looking to go 3-0 in the Spartan Showcase, has won all 10 games against intrastate foe Oakland by an average of 21.6 points.The Spartans, however, barely escaped Oakland with a 77-76 victory in the last meeting Dec. 11, 2010. Appling had 12 points in his first career start.