Bloomington, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Big Ten Conference rivals get together at Assembly Hall on Saturday afternoon, as the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans come calling on the Indiana Hoosiers.
Michigan State held down the top spot in the national rankings for a few weeks earlier this season, but a 79-65 loss at home to North Carolina on Dec. 4, the team's only setback of the campaign (12-1), dropped it from that lofty perch. Since then however, the Spartans have reeled off five straight victories, the most recent of which coming in their Big Ten opener at Penn State on New Year's Eve, 79-63. MSU is 2-0 in true road games and 6-0 away from East Lansing when factoring in four neutral-site wins as well.
Indiana hasn't had the same success as its counterpart today, but the squad has won 10 of its first 14 games, nine of which have occurred at home. The Hoosiers opened the season with five consecutive wins, but have gone 5-4 since. They tipped off conference play at Illinois on New Year's Eve, falling in overtime, 83-80. The setback stopped a brief two-game win streak. IU's only win of note came against Washington on Nov. 21, and the team has stumbled against the better teams on its schedule, including Connecticut, Syracuse, Notre Dame and the aforementioned Illini.
Indiana owns a 67-48 lead in the all-time series with Michigan State, but the Spartans have won six of the last nine meetings.
The Hoosiers are 44-12 in Bloomington against the Spartans.
Branden Dawson was high man for Michigan State in its double-digit win at Penn State earlier in the week, netting 20 points while grabbing nine rebounds. He got help from Keith Appling (14 points), Gary Harris (13 points) and Travis Trice (12 points), as the team battled back from a 47-40 halftime deficit. A 10-of-20 effort from beyond the arc certainly helped the cause, as did the fact that the Spartans held PSU's Tim Frazier, one of the top scorers in the Big Ten, to just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field. A massive 45-26 rebounding advantage certainly played an integral role in the outcome.
Harris heads a list of four players averaging double figures for coach Tom Izzo's club this season, as he pours in 17.4 ppg. Adreian Payne is hot on his heels with 17.0 ppg, while also pulling down 8.1 rpg. Appling (15.8 ppg, 4.8 apg) and Dawson (11.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg) have both performed at a high level throughout the campaign, helping the Spartans put up 83.3 ppg while claiming a +7.3 rebounding margin and a +2.2 turnover differential. MSU's foes are netting only 65.2 ppg.
Indiana's Kevin Ferrell went off in the recent overtime loss at Illinois, hitting 5-of-8 3-point attempts en route to a career-high 30 points, while Noah Vonleh used a 10-of-12 performance at the free-throw line to tally 16 points to go with nine rebounds. Evan Gordon chipped in with 10 points for the Hoosiers, who made good on 41.1 percent of their total shots, which included a dreadful 1-of-8 effort in the extra session. IU nailed 10 treys in the game and claimed a 24-19 edge in points at the foul line, but a whopping 23 turnovers proved costly. Illinois went just 2-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Ferrell continues to pace the Hoosiers in the scoring column this season, averaging 17.7 ppg while also serving as the team's primary playmaker with 4.1 apg. Vonleh (12.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Will Sheehey (10.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg) complete Indiana's double-digit scorers, assisting the team's scoring output of 82.0 ppg. The Hoosiers lead the nation in rebounding margin (+14.0), but they need to do a better job taking care of the basketball (16.4 tpg).