In case you haven't heard, the Michigan State Spartans are going through some injuries.
Star big man Adreian Payne has missed six straight games with a sprained foot. Leading rebounder Branden Dawson is out for the next month after breaking his hand. Senior point guard Keith Appling is battling through a wrist injury.
But none of that has stopped the Spartans from doing what they do best: win.
After suffering just their second loss of the season last weekend against Michigan, the Spartans went on the road Tuesday night and pulled off a 71-69 overtime victory against a strong Iowa team at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Appling had a great night, scoring 16 points to go along with four assists and a trio of steals. Meanwhile, big man Matt Costello stepped up big in place of his injured teammates, scoring 11 points, hauling in 12 rebounds and blocking two shots. Bruised? Battered? The result was the same: Spartans win.
It's what Michigan State has done all season as injuries have affected the team at every turn. Only three Spartans have played in all 21 games. Payne has missed six, Costello four, Dawson and Gary Harris three and Travis Trice two. Still, though, Michigan State has a top-10 ranking and only two losses to its name.
"They've been down guys all year long. This isn't new," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said after Tuesday's game. "It took everything they had to beat Oakland because they're missing four guys. They had sickness, injuries. ... So you talk about our depth, they're as good as we are. They had 10 guys ready to go tonight. All of them are really good players, and they played a lot."
As McCaffery mentioned, the success in the face of injuries is thanks to the Spartans' depth. That "next-man-up" mentality you always hear athletes talking about? Michigan State has it. The Hawkeyes are known for their depth, but the Spartans were the ones who won the battle of the Big Ten's deep teams Tuesday.
"Heck of a game," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. "I was not worried about the two guys that were missing, I was worried about all the guys on the bench who were in foul trouble. I thought a couple guys were key in tonight’s performance, and I’m proud of our guys. ... I feel very fortunate to come out of tonight with a win."
The Hawkeyes are having a great season, but the Spartans' road win shows they're still the class of the Big Ten.
"They've set the standard for the league," McCaffery said. "So I have tremendous respect for (Izzo). I've known him a long time. It's very hard to do what they've done. To consistently be contending not only for a league championship but a national championship. That is really hard to do, and he's done it with good kids doing it the right way. So I think that's another reason why I have so much respect for him. He does it the right way."