(East Lansing) The MSU mens basketball cheering section, the Izzone, may not be in full force on Wednesday, but that wont keep the team from gunning for a perfect conference record at home.
While most co-eds are busy enjoying their spring break, the Spartans (16-11 overall, 8-6 Big Ten) will play host to the Iowa Hawkeyes (14-11, 6-8) at the Breslin Center, where MSU has notched a perfect 7-0 record against Big Ten foes.
The Spartans have started to play better basketball in the last two games, picking up wins over Minnesota and Purdue last week. MSU will look to continue its winning ways against an Iowa team that has shown some improvements.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 91-88 overtime loss to Indiana in Bloomington, Ind. In that game Iowa was trailing by 15 points at halftime, but came back to knot it up at 78-78 and sent the game into the extra frame.
Although Iowa did not pick up the "W," they did get a nice performance from 6-foot-11 center Jared Reiner. Reiner had a career-night scoring 25 points and snatching 17 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes.
On Monday, Reiner was awarded the Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts against Ohio State, earlier in the week, and Indiana. The Iowa big man averaged 20.5 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo said on his Big Ten weekly press conference that Reiner has really elevated his game since suffering a sprained knee a few weeks back.
"Hes improving and he looks more aggressive," Izzo said. "Hes using a variety of different moves and is becoming more aggressive on the offensive end."
Reiner remains the Big Ten leader in rebounding with 8.5 boards per game.
Leslie is the leagues eighth best scorer at 15.9 points per game, while Horner puts up 9.0 ppg and is among the leaders in assists per game at 4.52. Boyd has a dangerous outside touch and is not afraid to use it.
Glen Worley, whose name was heard all afternoon in the first meeting, rounds out the starting five for the Hawkeyes. On Jan. 11, the 6-foot-7 Worley scored a career-high 29 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point territory to lead the Hawkeyes to a 68-64 victory in Iowa City.
In that game the Spartans overcome a horrible first half filled with turnovers and poor shooting to take a 61-60 lead with 1:50 to play. The Hawkeyes scored the next seven points to hold on for the win.
That win gave the Hawkeyes a strong 11-3 start and hopes of making a serious Big Ten championship run. After that win, the Hawkeyes hit a lull and have gone just 3-8, but Izzo said he will not take this team lightly.
The lone bright spot for the Spartans in the first meeting was sophomore guard Chris Hill. Hill led the Spartans with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting from behind the arc and that hasnt been a fluke.
The 6-foot-5 guard has averaged 13 points in three games against the Hawkeyes and has been getting more shots since sophomore swingman Alan Anderson has returned to the lineup.
In the last three games the Spartans as a team have shot the ball more and its starting to pay off. MSU is averaging 71.7 points per game over this stretch and have been deadly from behind the arc, knocking down 40 percent of its 3-point attempts.
Free-throw shooting has also boosted the offense in the three-game. MSU is getting to the line almost 30 times a game and are hitting 81.6 percent of them.
Game time is set for 8 p.m.
In other news
The Hawkeyes have two key players with tender ankles, but Iowa coach Steve Alford said on Monday that he doesnt expect them to miss any action. Leslie and Horner, both suffered ankle injuries the day before the Indiana game, but were able to go against the Hoosiers.
The injury didnt seem to bother Leslie, who finished with 17 points in 42 minutes. Horner played 33 minutes and had 7 points.
Wednesday also marks senior day for a quartet of Spartans. Forwards Adam Ballinger, Al Anagonye and Brian Westrick were thought to be MSUs only seniors to be honored, but one other Spartan announced his decision to forgo another season.
Forward Adam Wolfe told the Associated Press that this would be his last season playing for the Green and White. Instead of using another year of eligibility, following a medical redshirt, the 6-foot-9 forward has decided to go out with this years senior class.
Wolfe has seen limited action this season, after coming back from a gruesome hamstring pull last season.
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