GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats and the Michigan State Spartans meet today in a Big Ten Conference matchup at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.
The Wildcats are currently in the midst of a two game win streak following Big Ten wins over Indiana and Iowa. Prior to their run of good fortune, the Wildcats had lost three consecutive games to start conference play in an 0-3 hole. Northwestern started the season with eight straight wins and, for the second straight year, began the season with at least nine wins in its first 11 games.
Michigan State took the court most recently on Jan. 11th, downing No. 20 Wisconsin, 64-61, in overtime. The win pushed the Spartans record to 3-1 in Big 10 play. They have won three of their last four games overall and have posted an impressive 7-1 mark at home this season.
With regard to the all-time series, Michigan State holds a demanding, 80-37 lead. The two teams last squared off just 13 days ago, with the Spartans earning a 65-62 victory.
The Wildcats put forth an impressive showing in their last contest, downing Iowa 90-71. Drew Crawford led the offensive assault with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Michael Thompson added 17 points and dished out five assists.
John Shurna played at his typically spectacular level, scoring 16 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out five assists. He is the type of leader who not only scores, but also makes his teammates better. Northwestern shot 53.2 percent from the floor and hit 14-of-28 three-pointers in the win. Shurna has established himself as one of the best all-around players in college basketball this season. He leads the Wildcats in scoring (20.7 ppg), field goal percentage (55.7 percent) and three-point field goal percentage (57.5). He also has dished out 50 assists, nabbed 14 steals and ripped down 4.3 rpg. Thompson is impressive in his own right. He enters today's game with 449 career assists, just three shy of the school record. This season, he is averaging 15.1 ppg and has dished out a team-high 68 assists. The Wildcats win with offense, as they score 77.9 ppg.
The Spartans employed a two-man army of Draymond Green and Kalin Lucas to dispatch nationally-ranked Wisconsin. Green scored a game-high 26 points on 8- of-17 shooting, including 3-of-5 from downtown. He added nine boards and four assists. Lucas dished out six assists, to go with 17 points and four boards. His 4-of-17 performance from the floor was more indicative of the Spartans' performance as a whole, as they shot just 39.6 percent from the floor in the low-scoring affair.
What they lacked on offense, they made up for on defense, as they held Wisconsin to just 38.2 percent shooting. Typically, Michigan State shows better at the offensive end. The Spartans score 73.2 ppg on 45.1 percent shooting. They also drain 7.1 three-pointers per game. Durrell Summers and Lucas lead the scoring charge, averaging 14.8 and 14.5 ppg, respectively. Summers also rips down 4.8 rpg. Green averages 12.6 ppg and doles out a team- high 4 assists per game. The Spartans have posted a plus-7.2 scoring margin thus far.
This should be a good one. Both teams have pedigrees and rosters replete with talent. Give Michigan State the edge due to its homecourt advantage and gritty determination.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Breslin Center (14,759) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Northwestern 7-1, Michigan State 7-1. Away Record: Northwestern 3-3, Michigan State 1-2. Neutral Record: Northwestern 1-0, Michigan State 3-2. Conference Record: Northwestern 2-3, Michigan State 3-1. Series Record: Michigan State leads, 80-37.
Saturday, January 15th, 1:00 p.m. ET
PREDICTION: Michigan State 75, Northwestern 71