Rematch Time with Spartans

Last time the Gophers pressured one Spartan in particular and cut a 31-point deficit into one point. Since then, the Spartans have become accustomed to giving up leads. Find out more about Michigan State as it gets set to face Minnesota.

It'll be rematch time on Sunday, just five games into the Big Ten season, when Michigan State travels to Minneapolis to take on Tubby Smith's resurgent Minnesota club. The Spartans edged the visiting Golden Gophers 65-59 on Jan. 5 in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

MSU got 31 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Raymar Morgan the first time around, along with 17 points from freshman guard Kalin Lucas. The Spartans made the Gophers pay for swarming Drew Neitzel into a seven-point outing.

The Spartans established a trend in that game that has held true in all four Big Ten contests — they build a healthy lead, only to see it vanish in a short period of time. MSU was up 13 against Minnesota, but it was cut to one. A 25-11 lead on Purdue turned into a five-point deficit before the Spartans came back to win.

MSU led 18-9 at Iowa 12 minutes into the game — before scoring 18 in the final 28 minutes in a horrific 43-36 loss. And on Jan. 15, the Spartans led Ohio State 32-11 before watching that lead get trimmed to three. MSU held on for a 66-60 victory.

The Spartans will try to reverse another disturbing trend against the Gophers — MSU is 1-11 in its past 12 Big Ten road games.

NOTES

  • After the Spartans won their first two Big Ten games despite committing a combined 36 turnovers, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo warned his team that it needed to cut down on the sloppiness on the offensive end.

    His players apparently didn't heed the warning, as the 43-36 upset loss at Iowa on Jan. 12 would attest. Michigan State had 18 turnovers and shot just 30 percent (16 of 53) from the field.

    It all added up to Michigan State's 11-game winning streak ending with a thud as Michigan State scored its fewest points since a 50-36 loss to Michigan on Jan. 19, 1952.

    "We're not listening to coach," senior guard Drew Neitzel said. "He talked about turnovers all week, and we still came out with a lot of unforced turnovers and bad plays again."

    If nothing else, Izzo thought his team would start paying attention to him again.

    "I think maybe we got a little full of ourselves, not in a cocky or arrogant way," Izzo said. "When we kept winning when we were turning the ball over, it was misleading. Now, our guys should understand that you can't keep turning the ball over and still win."

  • Michigan State has shown outstanding ball movement throughout the season; the Spartans went into this week having recorded assists on 66.4 percent of their field goals. They also led the Big Ten with 18.9 assists a game.

  • Michigan State shot a season-best 61 percent in a 78-75 win over Purdue on Jan. 8, then made just 31 percent (16 of 52) four nights later in a 43-36 loss at Iowa.

    IN FOCUS: Michigan State has won seven of its last eight meetings with Minnesota but struggled to beat the Golden Gophers 65-59 at home on Jan. 5. Michigan State had a hard time with Minnesota's pressure defense, committing 19 turnovers, but was saved by F Raymar Morgan's career-high 31 points.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • C Drew Naymick knew there would be some holes in the middle of Ohio State's 2-3 zone, and he exploited them. Naymick hit 5-of-6 shots, including four midrange jumpers, for a season-high 11 points. His previous high was six. He also had four rebounds and two blocks, making him the only player in school history to reach 100 career blocks. Naymick played strong defense on Ohio State freshman C Kosta Koufos, limiting him to four points, 10 below his average. Despite the scoring outburst, post defense remains Naymick's primary role.

  • Good shots continue to be scarce for senior G Drew Neitzel, even when MSU goes against a zone defense. After Neitzel scored eight points early, the Buckeyes increased their focus on him. After a 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half, Neitzel did not have another field goal. He finished with 13 points, five assists, two steals and five rebounds in 35 minutes.

  • Freshmen Durrell Summers and Chris Allen continue to earn more trust by playing better defense at the guard spot. Both made important contributions against the Buckeyes. Allen hit a pair of 3-pointers for six points in 11 minutes. Summers had five points and six rebounds — all on the offensive end — in 12 minutes. Summers matched Ohio State's offensive rebounding total, helping MSU finish with a 46-31 rebounding edge.

  • F Drew Naymick became Michigan State's all-time blocked shots leader when he recorded the 98th of his career in the loss at Iowa. Naymick broke the record held by Matt Steignega.

  • G Kalin Lucas failed to score in 20 minutes off the bench in the loss at Iowa after averaging 17.0 points in the previous four games.

  • F Drew Namick replaced F Marquise Gray in the starting lineup as coach Tom Izzo looked for more size to bolster the interior defense. Naymick is Michigan State's all-time leading shot blocker.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "This will be a tape that gets burned because there is nothing positive that can come out of it." — Coach Tom Izzo after a 43-36 loss at Iowa on Jan. 12.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Raymar Morgan, F Drew Naymick, C Goran Suton, G Drew Neitzel, G Travis Walton. Key Subs — G Kalin Lucas, F Marquise Gray, G Durrell Summers.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Michigan State 65, Minnesota 59

    Michigan State 78, Purdue 75

    Iowa 43, Michigan State 36

    Michigan State 66, Ohio State 60

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Minnesota, Sunday, Jan. 20

    at Northwestern, Thursday, Jan. 24

    vs. Michigan, Sunday, Jan. 27


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