With their win over Missouri last night in the semifinals of the CBE Classic, the No.10 Spartans now have a showdown with No.1 UCLA on Tuesday night for the CBE Classic championship (10pm ET ESPN2).
It will be the biggest test of the young season for both teams.
Originally this game would be a matchup between two stellar All-American guards: MSU's Drew Neitzel and UCLA's Darren Collison.
But Collison hasn't played since spraining his left knee in a preseason game Nov. 2, and the Bruins struggled without their floor leader in the first half on Monday night in their semifinal game against Maryland, turning the ball over 12 times and hitting just 11 of 33 shots against Maryland's pressure.
But after a sloppy first half, the Bruins picked up their defense and scoring to roll past the Terrapins 71-59.
Sophomore Russell Westbrook has started in Collison's place and is averaging 11.5 points and 6.8 assists. However, the Bruins (4-0) have turned the ball over 66 times so far without their usual ballhandler.
The Spartans (3-0) had trouble of their own on Monday night against a relentless Missouri full-court press, turning the ball over 17 times, which is a major area of concern for coach Tom Izzo.
Neitzel played like an All-American though, scoring 21 points, including putting the team on his back when it counted most, hitting a big three-pointer and two free-throws late to seal the win.
Much like they did in the first half against Missouri, MSU will have to jump out early against the Bruins, who have the firepower to get ahead early and stay there.
Star freshman Kevin Love scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, and Josh Shipp also scored 18 points, but UCLA shot just 37 percent, including 4-of-13 from 3-point range, but out-rebounded the Terrapins 44-29.
"To win shooting 37 percent says a lot about our defense," said Bruins coach Ben Howland. "We were short-handed and got fatigued at the end."
It will be a matchup of great rebounding teams on Tuesday night and although both feature deep benches, UCLA's lineup is heavily depleted.
The Bruins dressed only eight players against Maryland because they also are without guard Michael Roll and forward James Keefe due to foot injuries.
The depleted lineup could be a problem against MSU, which is averaging 85.0 points per game after installing a new up-tempo offense. The Spartans have outscored their first three opponents by an average of 18 points.
Sophomore Raymar Morgan is has been the best player for the Spartans so far this season, averaging 19 points per game and 11.3 rebounds.
It will be interesting in seeing the one day turnaround for both teams after both played intense semifinal games last night.
"I'm looking forward to this, to see how our team adjusts with one-day prep," said Izzo. "We'll work all night and see what we can do and then dissect it later about what we did or didn't do. This is great for us to play back-to-back."
CBE Showdown: No.11 MSU vs No.1 UCLA
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