Picking up a quality win on the road against Indiana was a boost of confidence for the MSU Spartans and theyll need it heading into Madison tonight.
MSU (13-8 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) will take on Wisconsin (16-5, 6-3) at Kohl Center, where the Badgers are 12-1 this season and are sporting a perfect 4-0 Big Ten record.
Whats even more impressive is that dating back to the 1998-99 season the Badgers have won 21 of 22 Big Ten games at home.
However, if theres any team that has dominated the Badgers, its the Spartans who have won 12 of the last 14 meetings.
Aside from these glaring statistics this promises to be a showdown between two of the top rebounding teams in the conference.
The Badgers have won six of their last seven, and will present MSU with a bevy of matchup problems.
Wisconsin likes to post-up its guards and they do it very effectively. MSU head coach Tom Izzo said thats something that worries him.
"My biggest concern for this game with having Anderson out is the guard play of how they play," Izzo said. "You know it all depends on matchups in any of these games."
"They post up their guys Penney at 6-5, and what he weighs is going to be a very hard match for us. And an area we will miss Alan a lot."
Izzo said he hasnt decided what hell do to counteract the Wisconsin offensive scheme, but may use junior forward Adam Wolfe more. Wolfe has not played in MSUs last four games.
Penney has been "Mr. Everything" for Wisconsin all season. He is averaging 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.29 assists and ranks in the top 10 in the conference in all of these statistical categories.
Along with Penney, the Badgers have three other players that can flat-out score. Guard Devin Harris is averaging 13.6 points per game and is the Big Ten leader in steals per game with 2.05. Freshman forward Alando Tucker is averaging 12.8 points per game to go along with 5.8 boards per game.
And Owens rounds out the foursome, averaging 11.4 points per game. Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten that has four players averaging double-digits. Sophomore guard Chris Hill is the only Spartan in double figures.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan runs an unorthodox offense that has been very successful everywhere hes used it. Ryan is 35-18 at Wisconsin and has a career record of 418-121.
Izzo said its a swing offense, with a lot of shuffle cuts and they run it very effectively. He said his defense will have to make adjustments and make sure to limit Wisconsins second chance opportunities.
"We dont want to use the zone," he said. "They have a couple good shooters, but more importantly they are a very good offensive rebounding team."
The Badgers are second only to the Spartans in rebounding margin in the Big Ten, (MSU +6.7, Wisconsin +4.9) and their doing it with a relatively small lineup.
Forward Mike Wilkinson is the tallest starter at 6-foot-8 and leads the team with 6.5 rebounds a contest. But its their guards/forwards that are the most impressive. Tucker, Harris and Penney are all averaging more than 5 rebounds per game, despite all being 6-5 or smaller.
Izzo said this team reminds him of his championships teams and their ability to hunt down the rebounds.
"They got great quickness to the basketball," Izzo said. "Tucker is a pogo-stick, a very good athlete hes an Antonio Smith-type guy, hes got a nose for the ball and goes after the ball.
"They have some tough kids and tough kids I think have a tendency to rebound pretty well."
Not only can Wisconsin score and rebound, but they are also a sound defensive team. They are allowing the fewest points per game, 60, and have the largest scoring margin. +7.8.
"They play different defensively then maybe they did in the past, its almost like we played last year," Izzo said. "Not a lot of pressure, very solid and they dont foul very much and they dont turn the ball very much."
Izzo said his team has grown up and another quality win in a tough environment will be another notch in the belt for his team.
"You look at Wisconsin and theyre playing awfully well," he said. "They too have only lost one game at home, and that was very early in the season havent lost a Big Ten game at home. And like a Kentucky or Indiana though, this would be a good opportunity for us to try to steal one on the road if we play well."
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.