Keith Appling’s layup ‘all she wrote’
Atlanta ? When Michigan State guard Keith Appling received a pass from teammate Derrick Nix in the final 30 seconds with his team leading by one, he said he had one objective: get to the lane.
“The offense was kind of stagnant, so I just wanted to make a play the best way I possibly could,” Appling said following MSU’s 67-64 victory over Kansas University on Tuesday at the Georgia Dome. “When he kicked it out to me, I knew he was coming to set a ball screen.
“From there, it was all she wrote.”
Appling split KU defenders Jeff Withey and Kevin Young, contorting his body between them before spinning a scoop shot off the glass to give the Spartans a three-point lead with 14 seconds left.
“He did a great job of staying under control,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “The left-hand lay-up was superb.”
Earlier, Appling had hit a three-pointer over the top of Withey after the Jayhawks decided not to go over a ball screen to defend him.
Appling, a junior guard, believed that play might have freed him up for the crucial lay-up in the final seconds.
“I knew (Withey) was going to try to close out on me a little bit harder,” Appling said. “I knew it would be a lot easier for me to go by him and get the easy basket, so that’s just what I wanted to do.”
Appling didn’t just beat KU off the dribble. His game-high 19 points included perfect 3-for-3 shooting from three-point range.
Last year, Appling made just 25 percent of his three-pointers (24 of 96).
“He locked himself in a gym this summer. He shot a lot more shots than he ever shot in his life,” Izzo said. “And tonight was just one night where he got rewarded a little bit. As a coach, it’s fun to see that.”
The 18th-year coach Izzo, who improved to 3-1 against KU coach Bill Self during Self’s time with the Jayhawks, was happy to get to 1-1 after his team’s season-opening 66-62 loss to UConn on Friday in Germany .
“I think the good news is, we got a little bit of our pride and character back after not playing very well over there,” Izzo said.
Izzo described Tuesday’s bout as a “grind it, smashmouth game.”
“They didn’t play great in some areas. We didn’t play great,” Izzo said. “But, still, it was a helluva basketball game for this early in the season.”