MSU prepares for VT, works on rebounding

Spartans looking to buckle down on the glass against a tall Hokies team in Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

Sitting 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, Michigan State is focused on its next game and the challenge it presents.

The Spartans square off with Virginia Tech in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn on Friday – the first of its game this weekend in the tournament.

"We gotta go try to win a tournament," coach Tom Izzo said. "It's been a while since we've won one and that's one of our goals this year."

The Hokies enter the game averaging 84 points per game and bring a different look than last season.

"A way different team than last year to be honest with you," Izzo said. "I'm surprised because I looked at last year's team and I didn't realize they had a couple of guys sitting out and I think they have a junior college kid.

Virginia Tech also brings size and length that will challenge the Spartans on the boards, something the team has been focused on improving recently.

"We gotta get (Alex) Gauna and (Matt) Costello playing like he did a little bit more (in Wednesday's practice)," Izzo said. "We have played awfully small against some awfully big teams and that had something to do with it."

Senior forward Adreian Payne pointed to boxing out as an area to improve, especially against Virginia Tech.

"I do know that they are big," Payne said. "We are going to have to box out. We haven't been rebounding the way we want to and the way we've been as a program in past years. That's something that we've gotta get back."

Senior guard Keith Appling said there is no doubt the Spartans have the goods to be a good rebounding team, but just have to buckle down.

"Look at our lineup," Appling said. "Adreian's 6-10 and athletic. B.J., 6-6, 6-7 and athletic. Denzel is one of the better rebounding guards I've ever played with. We've got the pieces. We've just gotta put it all together and do the small things that it's going to take for us to get the extra rebounds."

With the high-scoring Hokies on deck, Appling pointed to rebounding as a place to win.

"Get stops, rebound and play them as close as we possibly can," he said. "Try to defeat some of those extra shots that they are getting."

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