In first half Sunday at Crisler Center, Michigan State seemed to fall apart when Keith Appling left the game.
In the second half, Appling could do nothing to stop the Spartans from continuing to dissolve in a 79-70 loss to rival Michigan that puts the Wolverines in full command of the Big Ten race. But he played a lot. And he'll keep playing.
Asked after his sixth loss in the past eight games to Michigan whether he considered someone else, coach Tom Izzo said: "Nope, I was going with my guy."
In his third game back after missing three with a sprained right wrist, Appling continued to operate as a partial player, scoring six points with two assists and two turnovers in 25 minutes. He has nine points, 12 assists and eight turnovers since his return, attempting seven shots - one from outside.
"Of course his wrist is affecting his shot, but he still drove, he did some things," Izzo said. "But I've got to get guys ready to play down the road, too.â¦ "I'm gonna keep playing Appling because I'm gonna play guys that are gonna be playing down the stretch."
The No. 13 Spartans (22-6, 11-4) must rely on No. 20 U-M (19-7, 11-3) to falter to have a shot at a share of the Big Ten title. Either way, the postseason goals will be lofty and likely not attainable unless Appling is at least able to be some kind of offensive threat.
He hurt the wrist again Sunday after going high for an errant Matt Costello lob pass and falling to the floor.
"I was able to play through it," he said.
He was not able to stop Michiganguard Nik Stauskas after MSU went small and switched from Gary Harris to Appling as Stauskas' primary defender.
That worked for Indiana and Yogi Ferrell three weeks earlier in a win over U-M, but Stauskas shot over Appling for most of his 21 second-half points.
"I felt like every time, my hand was there in his face," the 6-foot-1 Appling said of the 6-6 Staukas, "but those couple inches he had on me really mattered."
But the biggest moment for Appling on Sunday might have been the charge he was called for with 9:57 left in the first half, with MSU up 22-11.
Michigan's offense seemed to wake up from there, and MSU's defense never rejoined the action.
"That's when defensively they were going around us," Izzo said. "You can only Band-Aid things so much. But Keith's gonna have to play his way through. Keith is not 100(PERCENT). He's not 80(PERCENT). We all know that. But he's better than he was."
He's also 2-6 in his career against Michigan, including 0-4 at Crisler Center, along with senior forward Adreian Payne.