PREVIEW: Michigan State hosts Wisconsin

This game features four of the Big Ten's top five scorers with Maurice Ager (19.2) in second place followed by Alando Tucker (19.1) in third, Shannon Brown (18.2) fourth, and Paul Davis (17.8) is fifth in Big Ten scoring.

EAST LANSING - Having lost four of the last five games, #23 Michigan State (19-9, 7-7 Big Ten) comes home for their last two games looking to finish strong.

Their first task will be on Thursday night as #25 Wisconsin (19-8, 9-5 Big Ten) visits the Breslin Center, where the Spartans are 11-1 on the year.

Both teams are looking to record their 20th victories, with the Badgers having won four of their last five games.

The Badgers sit in third place in the Big Ten, a game and a half behind first-place Ohio State (10-4 Big Ten).

This game features four of the Big Ten's top five scorers with Maurice Ager (19.2) in second place followed by Alando Tucker (19.1) in third, Shannon Brown (18.2) fourth, and Paul Davis (17.8) is fifth in Big Ten scoring.

While Tucker leads the Badgers in scoring, it was junior Kammron Taylor's 27 points that led Wisconsin to victory in the last meeting with the Spartans on Jan. 8th. Tucker finished with 17 and the Badgers won 82-63.

Taylor averages 15 points per game and sophomore center Brian Butch adds 10.1 points per game for an offense that is third in the conference in scoring with 72.8 points per game. Michigan State ranks second in scoring with 76.2 points per game.

While it appears that the Spartans have hit hard times late in the season, coach Tom Izzo still believes that his team is capable of big things.

"This is a talented basketball team with good guys that has just had a horrendous schedule that has taken its toll," said Izzo. "You have to give credit to the teams we have played, Indiana played well."

"I still think we have a chance to win our last two games and if we do that we go into the Big Ten tournament with as good of a chance as anybody else," Izzo added.

Michigan State has had their offense going strong all season, but its on defense where they begin to break down. Factor in the recent loss of Matt Trannon, and the Spartans find themselves a much smaller team without him.

"He (Trannon) brings the toughness that maybe this team lacks a little. I think we have a chance to get him back for the Big Ten tournament, maybe," said Izzo.

One positive of playing Wisconsin is the fact that Michigan State has dominated the Badgers at the Breslin Center. They lead the series 39-14 in East Lansing and also lead the all-time series 69-54.

The Spartans are in need of something to kick start them toward bigger and better things and it all starts with two home games to close out their season.

Illinois comes to visit Breslin on Saturday and the Spartans could not feel more comfortable playing at home when they need some momentum.

FREE THROWS:
Michigan State senior guard Maurice Ager has been named a finalists for a pair of postseason awards. Ager is one of 10 finalists for the 2006 Oscar Robertson Trophy, presented by the United States Basketball Writers Association to its player of the year honoree.

He is joined on the list of finalists by Illinois' Dee Brown, Memphis' Rodney Carney, Villanova's Randy Foye, West Virginia's Mike Gansey, Louisiana Tech's Paul Millsap, Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, Texas' P.J. Tucker and Duke's J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. The winner of the Robertson Trophy will be selected by a vote of the USBWA membership.


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