Adreian Payne has fluctuated on NBA draft boards for most of the past two seasons, but Thursday's performance had to have impressed onlookers.
The Michigan State big man scored 41 points in a 93-78 win over Delaware, setting the pace for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Moreover, Payne shot 17 of 17 from the free-throw line, which set an NCAA Tournament record for most free throws made in a game without a miss.
"When you're scoring like that and the game is coming so easy, it feels like you're in a rhythym, it feels like you can't be stopped," Payne said.
Couple of impressive notes about Payne's outing:
Payne of @MSU_Basketball is 2nd player in Tournament history to score 40, shoot 67% FG and 100% FT... the other was Bill Bradley in 1965.— Jason McCallum (@ESPNJMac) March 20, 2014
This is the most points for an MSU player since Terry Furlow had 41 vs. Detroit in 1975. First 40-point game since Respert vs. IU, 1995.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 20, 2014
Adreian Payne has scored an MSU NCAA Tournament-record 35 points, breaking previous mark held by Greg Kelser (34 vs. Notre Dame, 1979).— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) March 20, 2014
He absolutely dominated a Delaware team that had no answer for him on the inside. Payne scored with his back to the basket, facing up from the elbow, in transition -- and also knocked down four of five from 3-point range. His development into an inside-outside weapon at the power forward position has been tremendous.
And here's the crazy part -- Delaware head coach Monte Ross said he slowed down a little bit in the second half.
"I have to say this cautiously," Ross said. "He sort of cooled off in the second half. We got him to miss a couple of jump shots. But 41, is 41. He's probably the best big man I've faced in 21 years of basketball."
While most people point to the health of Keith Appling and the Spartans as the key going forward, Payne being an unstoppable weapon would also help. He's one of the most difficult matchup problems in the country, a big man who can take smaller defenders to the block or draw shot-blockers out to the perimeter. When Payne is aggressive and making shots, he looks like a lottery pick.