Spartans want to continue dominance over UM

It's been sort of an understated thing; Michigan State is the perennial class of the Big Ten and Michigan has been one of its doormats. But all of a sudden, Michigan is making strides towards respectability and has circled this contest as a statement maker.

EAST LANSING - It's been sort of an understated thing; Michigan State is the perennial class of the Big Ten and Michigan has been one of its doormats. But all of a sudden, Michigan is making strides towards respectability and has circled this contest as a statement maker.

Tommy Amaker has done well beating the bushes to bring talent to Ann Arbor and it's beginning to show. UM landed one of the state's premier recruits in 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward Deshawn Sims and well regarded swingman K'Len Morris from Grand Blanc.

Now, UM is attempting to set a trap for the Spartans (15-4, 3-2 Big Ten), heading into Ann Arbor, the Wolverines (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) are tied with MSU in the Big Ten standings and are looking at a win over the Spartans as their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

The rivalry is renewed on Wednesday as #11 Michigan State makes the brief trip over to Ann Arbor to face Michigan

The Spartans have are riding a four-game winning streak over the Wolverines but Michigan leads the all-time series 89-68, and a 54-27 edge in Ann Arbor.

Both teams are tied for second in the Big Ten conference standing along with Iowa and Illinois with a record of 3-2.

This game proves to be crucial game for both sides as they try to get an edge in the conference standings, it just so happens to be a rivalry between the two schools that has gone on for decades.

"We're going into this rivalry week on a positive note and this is the toughest game we have had in a while down there," said MSU coach Tom Izzo.

The Spartans are coming off a 30-point blowout of #23 Iowa on Saturday and their trio of star players are beginning to click again.

Paul Davis recorded another double-double, while Maurice Ager scored a team-high 25 points. Shannon Brown scored 17 points including some acrobatic shots in the second half.

Maurice Ager leads the Big Ten in scoring and Michigan State - as a team - leads the Big Ten in assists, averaging 18.16 per game.

The biggest key to the Spartans 3-game winning streak is their amazing defense. In their last three games, they have held their opponent to 39.5 percent shooting and 62.8 points per game.

The Spartan defense will see a balanced Wolverine offense, led by senior guard Daniel Horton, who leads the team in scoring (16.3 points per game). Four of the Wolverine's five starters average in double-figures, with 6-foot-11 center Courtney Sims being a force inside.

"They have all the aspects to make a great team," said Izzo. "They have size, great scorers inside; they have depth at just about every position. I'm sure they are looking forward to it and we are looking forward to it too and this is what rivalries are all about," said Izzo. "They have a player who is playing the best of his whole career in Horton."

Horton averages 5.5 assists per game and is the quarterback of the Wolverine team. Everything the team does revolves around home much like Dee Brown of Illinois. Horton shot the lights out with a 32-point performance against Minnesota last week.

The problem for UM is that they may be without star forward Lester Abram. Abram continues to nurse what appears to be a high ankle sprain. Taking Abram out of this contest takes away his 12.1 points out of the Wolverines attack. "It's a big game and a very important game and it's a notch above the rest, but we also still have a lot of games to play in our schedule," said Izzo.

The Spartans and Wolverines rank one and two in free-throw percentage in the Big Ten and both average 14.6 turnovers per game.

These two teams are evenly matched in many areas, with the Spartans holding an edge on offense.

The trio of Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, and Paul Davis is the only trio in the nation where each player averages more than 17 points per game.

The game will come down to who can establish an early lead and grab momentum throughout the game. The Wolverines are 9-1 this season at the Crisler Center and if the Spartans get down early in front of a big crowd, then they might be in trouble having to overcome a deficit.

Tom Izzo knows how to win and take a crowd out of the game, he has done it for years and he will be looking to make it a fifth consecutive win over the hated rival Wolverines on Wednesday night.


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