Michigan State's Adreian Payne tries to shake Penn State's Brandon Taylor during tonight's game in State College, Pa. / Associated Press
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne were the big story before Michigan State and Penn State tipped off tonight, thanks to their morning altercation that prompted a call to university police.
They were the story of the game, too. Checking in together for the first time with 16:37 to play in a tight contest, they lifted the No. 18 Spartans to a 81-72 victory at Bryce Jordan Arena.
MSU trailed, 36-35, when Payne hit a hook shot with 15:02 left. That started the 19-8 MSU run that broke open the game - and Payne had 16 of those points, on a night that saw him reach a new career high with 20.
Dawson came up with some big plays as well for MSU (15-3, 4-1), including a baseline dunk and passes that set up Payne and Derrick Nix (12 points) for easy baskets. It's a good thing because Jermaine Marshall of Penn State (8-9, 0-5) shredded MSU's defense for 29 points and D.J. Newbill had 27.
This after Dawson and Payne, off-campus roommates at MSU, got into an argument shortly after 11 a.m. at the on-campus team hotel, the Nittany Lion Inn.
"It was verbal at first, and then they began to throw punches," said Penn State director of public information Lisa Powers said. "One of them had a busted lip. Both of them declined medical attention."
Campus police were called to the scene to investigate. An official decision on charges has not yet been made, though they appear unlikely at this point.
Powers said the scuffle caused minor damage to a wall in the hotel, and that MSU will be asked to pay for the damage. Izzo said Dawson and Payne will do so, and he also told the Big Ten Network that the scuffle started over an argument about practice gear.
"We went through what some families go through and some teams go through," Izzo told the Spartan Sports Network before the game. "Two guys joking around and got a little carried away ... We're just going to deal with it and hopefully, the distraction, we learn from it and it does not hurt our team tonight."
Contact Joe Rexrode: 313-222-2625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @joerexrode. Check out his MSU blog atfreep.com/heyjoe.