GAME NOTES: Big Ten Conference action is on tap in Happy Valley this afternoon, as the Penn State Nittany Lions play host to the 18th-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State endured some tough losses to top-notch competition during the non-league portion of its schedule, but coach Tom Izzo's club has responded since the start of Big Ten play, topping both Minnesota and Northwestern to improve to 10-4 overall. The Spartans are 16-3 in Big Ten road games dating back to the 2008-09 season. Following this clash, MSU will return home to play four of its next six.
After knocking off Indiana in their Big Ten opener on December 27th, the Nittany Lions have dropped back-to-back bouts to Michigan and Purdue to fall to 8-6 on the season. Penn State, which has won seven of its 10 home games, has lost four of its last five games overall, and the Purdue outing marked the first of five straight the Lions will play against ranked teams.
Michigan State owns a commanding 28-5 lead in the all-time series with Penn State, which includes an 11-3 mark in University Park. The Spartans have won four of the last five meetings, and 12 of the last 14 overall.
Draymond Green poured in 15 points, and Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas chipped in 12 points apiece to lead Michigan State to a hard-fought 65-62 win at Northwestern earlier in the week. MSU, which has now beaten the Wildcats in 15 of the last 16 meetings, shot 48.3 percent from the field while holding NU to just 31.6 percent. Northwestern's John Shurna, the Big Ten's leading scorer, was limited to 11 points as he missed 10 of his 11 field goal attempts, and his Wildcats were also dominated on the glass, 45-33, as Green and Delvon Roe both logged double-digit rebounds for the Spartans with 11 and 10, respectively. Summers continues to pace Michigan State with 15.2 ppg, while Lucas is close behind with 14.4 ppg. Green rounds out the team's offensive-minded trio with 12.2 ppg, while also serving as its top rebounder with 8.9 rpg. As a team, MSU is putting up 74.6 ppg behind 45.7 percent shooting from the field and 39.0 percent from three-point range, while opponents are netting just 65.9 ppg on 39.2 percent overall field goal efficiency.
Despite 18 points each from rookie reserve Jermaine Marshall and star guard Talor Battle, the Nittany Lions fell to conference power Purdue on Wednesday night by 15. Not only did Penn State get solid offensive performances from a few guys, but the team held Boilermaker standout E'Twaun Moore to just four points. Jeff Brooks helped the PSU cause with a double-double consisting of 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Lions were beaten badly on the glass (46-31) and outscored at the foul line (25-13) -- the two biggest factors in the outcome. Battle averages 21.1 ppg to rank second in the conference, while also proving to be one of the more well-rounded players in the Big Ten by virtue of his 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per outing. Brooks is next in the scoring column with his 13.5 ppg, and he is the top glass cleaner (7.8 rpg) for a team that is averaging 66.4 ppg on 42.5 percent field goal efficiency, while allowing 65.4 ppg on 43.6 percent shooting.
The Nittany Lions can make the rest of the Big Ten stand up and take notice if they can somehow steal a couple of wins during this murderous stretch of games. Now of course, an awful lot has to go right for that to happen, and it starts with getting Battle in a zone, something the Spartans will do their best to guard against.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: MSU 6-1, PSU 7-3. Away Record: MSU 1-1, PSU 1-3. Neutral Record: MSU 3-2, PSU 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 2-0, PSU 1-2. Series Record: Michigan State leads, 28-5.
Penn State 67, Michigan State 65