Saturday, March 1 - East Lansing, Mich. - Breslin Center (14,797)
ESPN2 - Bob Wischusen, Dan Dakich
1. The Complete Package - Gary Harris gets a lot of notoriety for his scoring, as he ranks second in the Big Ten (17.9 ppg). But what makes him special is his ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the court, leading the Spartans with 49 steals, ranking third in the conference (2.0 spg). In Big Ten action, he ranks fourth in scoring (17.7 ppg) and second in steals (2.4 spy).
2. Bouncing Back From Defeat - Michigan State is 5-0 following a loss this season. The Spartans are averaging 79.8 points in games after a loss, shooting .483 from the field and .463 from 3-point range. Adreian Payne is averaging a team-best 18.8 points in those five games.
3. Dawson's Return - Branden Dawson returned to practice this week for the first time since breaking his right hand on Jan. 23. The Spartans are 18-1 with Dawson, averaging 78.7 points on .473 shooting, while holding opponents to 64.8 points and a .384 field-goal percentage. MSU is also averaging 7.9 steals and 5.2 blocks with Dawson in the lineup. Without Dawson, MSU is averaging 74.7 points on .470 shooting, while allowing 67.6 points on .416 shooting, as the Spartans average just 5.8 steals and 3.8 blocks. During the last nine games that Dawson missed since breaking his hand, MSU is allowing 69.8 points on .433 shooting. In the last two games, MSU is allowing 79.0 points, as opponents are shooting .495 from the field, including .455 from 3-point range.
4. Payne Returns With A Bang - After missing seven games with a right foot sprain, Adreian Payne has been a force in his return, averaging 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in six games. He's started the last five contests, averaging 18.0 points and 8.4 rebounds, including scoring 24 points against Wisconsin, 20 against Northwestern, adding 14 rebounds against the Wildcats, and 23 points at Purdue. In six games, he's shooting .529 from the field, .400 from 3-point range and .647 from the foul line, averaging 27.5 minutes. He's posted a double-double in two of the six games.
5. Spartan Defense - Michigan State has held opponents below 40 percent shooting for the year in each of the last two seasons, limiting opponents to .390 FG% last year (ranking 22nd in the nation) and .379 FG% in 2011-12 (ranking second in the nation). It's the first time the Spartans have held opponents below 40 percent in back-to-back seasons since MSU did it three straight seasons from 1999-2000 to 2001-02. MSU's first 28 opponents are shooting .395 from the floor, ranking first in the Big Ten and 23rd in the nation (NCAA stats through Feb. 23), including .327 from 3-point range, ranking sixth in the conference. In conference games, MSU ranks first in field-goal percentage defense (.409) and blocks (5.1 bpg), second in steals (6.8 spg), and sixth in scoring defense (66.3 ppg).
Series Record: Michigan State leads 57-56
Series Streak: Michigan State W-2
Record at East Lansing: Michigan State leads 36-18
Series Streak at East Lansing: Michigan State W-6
Last Meeting: #4/4 Michigan State 78, Illinois 62 (Jan. 18, 2014 at Champaign)
Groce vs. Michigan State: 0-2
Matt Costello: F, 6-9, 240, So. - 4.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Adreian Payne: C, 6-10, 245, Sr. - 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Denzel Valentine: G, 6-5, 220, So. - 8.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Gary Harris: G, 6-4, 210, So. - 17.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Keith Appling: G, 6-1, 185, Sr. - 13.6 ppg, 4.8 apg
Off the bench:
Branden Dawson: F, 6-6, 225, Jr. - 10.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg
Alex Gauna: F, 6-9, 250, RJr. - 1.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Travis Trice: G, 6-0, 170, Jr. - 7.1 ppg, 2.4 apg
Kenny Kaminski: F, 6-8, 225, RFr. - 5.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Illinois coach John Groce: "Obviously we know how dangerous they are in transition. They're a great shooting team. They're No. 1 in the Big Ten in 3-poitn field goals made and percentage. Defensively they never beat themselves, they're always in the right position. They block well. They're difficult to score against and get easy baskets against. And then they have great depth, especially when everyone is healthy."