Adreian Payne’s 41-point explosion in the second round against the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens was impressive, but you can bet he won’t duplicate that against the Harvard Crimson on Saturday.
Check out the highlights of the Michigan State Spartans' win over Delaware.
Predicting a decrease in Payne's individual stats doesn't mean he won’t play well, or that the Spartans won’t win. The Crimson play stout defense and 41 points from a single player against them is a tall order.
Harvard allows just 60.4 points per game, which is 13th in the nation.
This is going to be a low-scoring game that is won on the glass and defensively. Considering the dynamics of this upcoming matchup, here’s what you can expect from Payne on Saturday.
(Check out the updated bracket here)
Payne in the Paint
Harvard swarms on defense, but they lack size in the frontcourt.
The Crimson’s tallest regular rotation players are 6’7”. At 6’10” with long arms, Payne will have a clear advantage close to the basket. A huge key for him against Delaware was that he knocked down his free throws.
Delaware's head coach Monte Ross had high praise for Payne after the game, per Spartan Sports Page:
He was 17-for-17 to be exact. Over the last two games, Payne has converted all 22 of his attempts from the line.
Against Harvard, he should get his opportunities on the line as well. If he’s anywhere near as efficient against the Crimson, he should be effective in the low and high post.
Payne on the Perimeter
One of the most unique things about Payne’s game is his ability to knock down the three-point shot.
He made 4-of-5 attempts from downtown against Delaware and he’s shooting 44 percent from long range this season. He’s a matchup nightmare for most teams with his size and ability to pick and pop.
Harvard has the athletes and discipline to fight over screens and contest Payne’s three-point attempts, but if point guard Keith Appling is controlling the ball properly, he can still get Payne good looks.
Even with that, it seems Payne’s smartest approach against Harvard is to hover near the free-throw line and the low block.
If he gets hot from deep, that approach could change, but I wouldn’t bet on another three-point explosion against Harvard.
Payne on the Glass
This is where Michigan State needs Payne to shine brightest.
With a huge size advantage, the Spartans should dominate the rebounding category and limit Harvard’s second-chance opportunities. Payne will be one of the players primarily responsible for doing that.
Harvard has a few speed merchants, like Siyani Chambers on the perimeter. Payne’s teammates up top and on the wing must do their jobs to prevent the frontcourt players from picking up unnecessary fouls.
Appling, Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine usually do a good job containing penetration. Look for Payne to grab double-digit rebounds in this game, as it should be a major focus for him.
Total Stat Line Prediction for Payne
- 22 points
- 10 rebounds
- 7-for-15 from the field
- 1-for-2 from three-point range
- 7-for-9 from free-throw line
- 1 blocked shot
Payne is on a mission to end his college career on a high note. After the great performance against Delaware, Payne said this per Gillian Van Stratt of MLive.com:
"I wanted to leave a legacy. I talked to coach about that. The other day I sent him a text."
It's clear he's a man of his word. Payne will continue his path toward All-Tournament honors with another solid, all-around performance and the Spartans will advance to the Sweet 16.
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