Michigan State Spartans (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) Streak:
Won 1 Last Game:
Defeated Northwestern 85-70
Travis Trice (averaging 7.0 ppg and 2.4 apg)
Gary Harris (leads team with 17.4 ppg)
Denzel Valentine (scoring 8.0 ppg with 6.2 rpg)
Matt Costello (averaging 4.9 ppg and 3.9 rpg)
Adreian Payne (second on team with 16.6 ppg, leads MSU with 7.6 rpg)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-10, 5-6 Big Ten) Streak:
Won 2 Last Game:
Defeated Illinois 67-58
Tai Webster (played just 14 minutes and took one shot vs. Illinois)
Ray Gallegos (ranks seventh in Big Ten with 2.0 3-pointers/game)
Terran Petteway (scored 16 points in win over Illinois)
Shavon Shields (had career-high 33 points and shot 15-15 free throws vs. Illini)
Walter Pitchford (averaging 8.6 ppg and 4.2 rpg)
Step up on D
Yes, Michigan State will be without key players Keith Appling and Branden Dawson today, but that doesn't make the Spartans any less potent on the offensive end. Michigan State comes into today's game ranked second in the Big Ten with 78 points per game on 47.1 shooting from the field (third) and 38.7 percent shooting from 3-point range (second). Guard Gary Harris looks to be the frontrunner for the league's player of the year award, and the return of big man Adreian Payne has given MSU a huge lift inside. Nebraska needs to bring it for a full 40 minutes defensively if it's going to pull off the upset.
Start strong, stay strong 2
While Nebraska has managed to win five of its last seven games, it hasn't done itself many favors with some of the ice-cold starts its had to the first or second halves, and sometimes both, along the way. The Huskers have to find a way to get going offensively from the opening tip and not fall into one of their usual scoring slumps, because Michigan State is the kind of team that will bury you if you give it the chance. The Spartans are holding teams to shoot just 38.9 percent from the floor, so good shots will be tough to come by. Hopefully NU takes a page from what Shavon Shields did against Illinois and take the ball to the rack early and often.
Stay in control
The last time Nebraska traveled up to Michigan to take on a red-hot team this season it got absolutely housed by 29 points by the 10th-ranked Wolverines. In that game and other road trips to places like Ohio State, Cincinnati and Creighton, the Huskers got overwhelmed when things start to go wrong and weren't able to recover until it's too late. East Lansing will be one of the most difficult road venues NU will see all season, especially with the Spartans wanting to lock up a regular-season Big Ten Championship. Nebraska finally got the road game monkey off its back a couple weeks ago at Northwestern, but today will be a totally different animal.
Nebraska head coach Tim Miles on the job Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has done to build the Spartans into perennial contenders:
"He's recruited a great amount of talent, and he's just such a down-to-Earth guy and a passionate guy. His teams play with such an energy level and physicality that they're really hard to contend with, and they never take a possession off. He's one of the best at preparing guys. He understands how to build a team and to build a program that is long lasting, for sure. This is the one team that I think, if they're healthy, could make the deepest run in the NCAA Tournament out of the Big Ten."
Sophomore forward Walter Pitchford on how the Huskers have to handle the "The Izzone" and the raucous crowd the the Breslin Center:
"We just have to go up there just like we played Northwestern and really not let the crowd dictate the game and don't get caught up in the crowd's madness. Just play like we're at home. It doesn't matter if we're away or not."