GAME NOTES: Looking to build off of an impressive Saturday win, the Michigan State Spartans head to Williams Arena for a Big Ten Conference date with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Michigan State used a strong second half to close out Illinois, 61-57, on Saturday. The Spartans have now won two of their last three contests after losing five of six. They sit at 7-7 in Big Ten play.
Minnesota has not played since Thursday night, in a 66-63 loss to Penn State. The Golden Gophers have now lost five of their last six contests to fall to 6-8 in Big Ten play.
With respect to the all-time series, tonight's matchup marks the 118th meeting between Michigan State and Minnesota. The Spartans currently hold a 60-57 lead, which includes a 71-62 victory on Dec. 31st of this season.
Looking to bolster its chances of playing in a 14th straight NCAA Tournament, Michigan State played inspired ball down the stretch on Saturday to defeat Illinois. With the scored tied at 51-51, the Spartans scored nine consecutive points to pull away for the slim margin of victory.
Kalin Lucas willed the team to victory, netting 25 points, as the only Spartan to score in double figures. Lucas has been gradually rounding into form all season, following a left Achilles tear in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament. He has now scored in double figures in 16 of his last 17 contests and leads Michigan State in scoring at 16.4 ppg. In his last seven contests, Lucas is averaging 21.9 ppg, ranking as the best seven-game scoring stretch of his career. Draymond Green (12.8 ppg) and Durrell Summers (12.5 ppg) help to shoulder some of the scoring load, as Michigan State averages 70.2 ppg, while allowing 67.5 ppg on the other end.
Minnesota fought with vigor, but could not hang on for the victory Thursday night. Trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, the Golden Gophers came back to lead 60-57 with 2:12 to play, before an 8-0 Penn State run sunk their chances.
Blake Hoffarber led the team in defeat, scoring 18 points and handing out seven assists. Colton Iverson also handed out seven assists, while Trevor Mbakwe posted a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. The Golden Gophers outscored the Nittany Lions 26-16 in the paint on the night, but were outscored 17-5 in points off turnovers. On the year, Minnesota has established an advantage in the trenches this, posting a plus-5.6 rebounding margin, but has struggled from the perimeter, allowing 8.5 three-pointers per game. The Golden Gophers score 70.8 ppg, led by Hoffarber (14 ppg) and Mbakwe (13.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg), and allow 67.1 ppg on the other end.
With Lucas finding his form, and the Spartans regaining momentum, it appears Minnesota should be in for more than it can handle tonight.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Michigan State 11-2, Minnesota 11-3. Away Record: Michigan State 1-7, Minnesota 3-6. Neutral Record: Michigan State 3-2, Minnesota 3-0. Conference Record: Michigan State 7-7, Minnesota 6-8. Series Record: Michigan State leads, 60-57.
GAME TIME: Tuesday, February 22nd, 9:00 p.m. ET
TSN PREDICTION: Michigan State 67, Minnesota 60