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Spartans Back At Home Against Illinois

After two road games, the Spartans are back at home, hosting Illinois on Thursday.

Jan. 30, 2013

#13/9 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) vs. Illinois (15-6, 2-5)
 Date Saturday, Jan. 31
 Time 7 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Sean Farnham)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Tickets Available at
 Game Notes Michigan State | Illinois
 Statistics  Michigan State | Illinois
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

The Last Meeting
Michigan State41
January 31, 2012
Champaign, Ill.
No. 9 MSU Upended by Illinois, 42-41
Branden Dawson had 12 points for the Spartans, who shot 24.1 percent (14 of 58).

In its only game of the week, Michigan State hosts Illinois on Thursday. This is the only meeting of the regular season between the Spartans and Illini. MSU has played five of its first eight conference games on the road, but will play its next two at Breslin Center, where the Spartans are a perfect 11-0 this season.

1. Spartans In Tough Stretch
Michigan State is in the early stages of a tough stretch of games. Beginning with the home game vs. Ohio State, Michigan State will play seven games against opponents currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (Jan. 28) in a span of 11 games, and nine in the top 28 in the next 12 contests. The Illinois game is just the fourth in a string of 12 games that will see the Spartans play nine games against teams that currently own a .500 or better conference record.

2. Payne's Improved Play
Over the last six games, Adreian Payne is averaging 13.0 points, shooting 30-of-43 (.698) from the field, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range. A look at the Big Ten stats shows that Payne is one of the premier big men in the Big Ten, ranking fifth in the conference in rebounding (6.9 rpg), second in field-goal percentage (.610) and eighth in blocks (1.1 bpg). He also ranks fourth on the Spartans in scoring at 9.4 points per contest. The main thing limiting Payne's production is foul trouble, as he's played 20 minutes or more in just 11 games. He's recorded three double-doubles this season, each one of them in 22 minutes or less. However, he is averaging 32.7 minutes over the last three games.

3. Success At Breslin
Michigan State is 322-45 (.877) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 166-34 (.830) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 248-30 (.892) at Breslin, including a 125-21 (.856) conference record. MSU has won 29 of the last 30 games at Breslin.

4. Dawson's Recovery
Given the fact that Branden Dawson had ACL surgery just last March (two days after suffering the injury in the regular-season finale vs. Ohio State), it's remarkable that he has not missed even a single practice this season. Over the last seven games, he seems to have elevated his play to another level, averaging 12.4 points and 8.1 rebounds, including career highs in both scoring (18 points) and rebounding (13 rebounds) at Wisconsin. On the season, he ranks third on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg), third in rebounding (6.7 rpg), and third in minutes played (27.2 mpg).

5. Harris Paces Big Ten Freshmen
In Big Ten games, Gary Harris leads all conference freshmen in scoring, averaging a team-best 13.3 points per contest. He leads the conference in foul shooting in Big Ten games, making 23-of-25 shots (.920) from the charity stripe. Harris also paces Big Ten freshmen in 3-point percentage in conference games at .500 (19-of-38), ranking third among all players.

Series History
Illinois leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 56-55, although the Spartans own a 35-18 advantage in East Lansing. MSU has won six of the last nine against Illinois and eight of the last 12. The Spartans have won five in a row at Breslin Center, and nine of the last 12. The last 14 games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less. Tom Izzo is 18-14 in his career against the Illini.

Coach Groce
John Groce (Taylor, '94) is 100-62 in his fifth season as a head coach, including 15-6 in his first season at Illinois. Prior to his arrival in Champaign, Groce spent four seasons at Ohio University, leading the Bobcats to an 85-56 mark. Last season, he directed Ohio to a 29-8 record, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. His coaching career includes stints as an assistant at Taylor, North Carolina State, Butler, Xavier and Ohio State.

The Last Meeting
Illinois defeated Michigan State, 42-41, on Jan. 31, 2012, in Champaign. The Spartans took a 40-37 lead with 2:39 left. On Illinois' next possession, Tracy Abrams tied the contest with a 3-pointer. MSU missed a 3-pointer and Brandon Paul hit two free throws on Illinois' next possession following an offensive rebound, taking a 42-40 lead. Draymond Green missed the final 3:49 of the game with a knee injury, scoring a season-low five points. Branden Dawson led MSU with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Paul led Illinois with 18 points. MSU shot a season-low .241 from the field in scoring 41 points, its lowest total since 2008.

The Last Meeting In East Lansing
Michigan State defeated Illinois, 61-57, on Feb. 19, 2011, in East Lansing. MSU led by seven midway through the first half, but Illinois took a 26-25 lead into the break. The Spartans struggled shooting in the first half, hitting .308 from the field. In the second half, Kalin Lucas scored 17 of his game-high 25 points, including 11 straight for MSU from 12:59 to 3:57. Still the game was tied at 51. Draymond Green then hit two free throws with 2:35 left. Delvon Roe then blocked a shot on the defensive end and followed with a layup on an assist from Green, sparking a 9-0 run to give MSU a 60-51 lead, as the Spartans held on for the win. Lucas proved to be the only double-figure scorer for the Spartans, who shot .542 in the second half. Demetri McCamey led Illinois with 15 points. The contest featured 14 lead changes and 10 ties.

Illini Notes
Illinois leads the Big Ten with 517 3-point field-goal attempts, with 42 percent of its shots coming from behind the arc ... Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson both average 2.3 made 3-pointers per contest ... Illinois is shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range in its 15 wins and 22.5 percent in its six losses ... Paul (35 vs. Gonzaga) and Richardson (30 vs. Nebraska) have both scored 30 points in a game this season ... Paul ranks third in the Big Ten in overall scoring, averaging 17.9 points per game.

Indiana defeated Michigan State, 75-70, on Jan. 27, in Bloomington. The Hoosiers threatened to pull away a couple different times in the first half, but the Spartans always managed to maintain contact. Indiana took a nine-point lead at 28-19, but MSU quickly scored the next nine points. The Hoosiers did hit two 3-pointers in the final minute to take a 44-38 lead into the half. Indiana's lead never grew larger than five points in the final 11 minutes of the contest, and yet Michigan State could never get over the hump and tie the score or take the lead. MSU had two shots to tie the game at 72 in the final three minutes, but could not convert. Victor Oladipo led Indiana with 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks, while Indiana native Gary Harris paced MSU with 21 points, and Adreian Payne added 18.

* Adreian Payne hit a career-best three 3-pointers in four attempts. Previously, he had never attempted more than one 3-pointer in a game.
* Gary Harris recorded his second career 20-point game, leading MSU with 21 points.
* Derrick Nix dished out a career-best six assists.
* Michigan State made 11 3-pointers, the most it has made in a game since making 12 against Bowling Green on Dec. 4, 2010.
* Indiana's 44 first-half points were the most points any opponent had scored in the first half this season.
* Indiana became just the second Big Ten opponent to shoot over 50 percent (.509) against the Spartans (also Minnesota), as MSU has lost both of those games.
* Michigan State attempted a season-low six free throws.
* After six straight games with 13 or fewer turnovers, MSU recorded 19.

Limiting Turnovers In Conference Play
One area of concern for Michigan State is the number of turnovers, as the Spartans are averaging 14.3 per game, including five games with 19 or more. In Big Ten play, however, MSU has done a much better job, averaging 12.3 per conference game. MSU has recorded 13 or fewer turnovers in six of eight Big Ten games, winning all six.

Winning the Close Ones
In the Big Ten where the margin between winning and losing can be so slim, it's important to come through in late game situations. That's been a strength for a Spartan team that is 6-2 in games decided by five points or less, including 3-1 in conference games. In the last three minutes of conference games, MSU is shooting .433 (13-30) from the field, and a remarkable .839 (26-31) from the foul line, averaging just 0.9 turnovers per game (seven in eight games).

Appling On Cousy List
Keith Appling is one of 20 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, honoring the nation's top point guard. Appling is one of four Big Ten point guards on the list as he is joined by Michigan's Trey Burke, Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Minnesota's Andre Hollins. In conference games, Appling ranks tied for fifth in the Big Ten in assists (4.1 apg), third in steals (2.0 spg), and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7). Overall, he ranks sixth in assists (4.1 apg) and sixth in steals (1.6 spg).

MSU's Center Tandem
Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne combine to give Michigan State a steady inside presence. Although they often will take the floor together, at least one of them is usually in the game. Combined, they average 18.4 ppg and 13.7 rpg, with both ranking among the top seven in the Big Ten in rebounding. Both of them are also shooting over 52 percent from the field.

Dawson Gets Defensive
Branden Dawson has recorded a team-best 39 steals (1.8 spg), ranking fourth in the Big Ten, and 22 blocks (1.0 bpg), ranking second on the team and t-13th in the Big Ten. He is the only player 6-foot-6 or taller to rank in the Top 15 in steals, and the only one 6-foot-6 or shorter in the Top 15 in blocks. As a freshman, Dawson collected 29 steals in 31 games. Keith Appling ranks second on the team and sixth in the Big Ten with 34 steals (1.6 spg), while Adreian Payne leads the team and ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 24 blocks (1.1 bpg).

In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of +10.7 points (34.7-24.0), out-scoring 17 of its 21 opponents. At times, MSU has dominated the paint, including out-scoring Texas Southern (46-10), Oakland (40-16), Miami (30-14), Nicholls State (52-20), Tuskegee (42-26), Bowling Green (42-24), Texas (30-16), and Ohio State (34-14).

It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 13 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 eight times and the Top 25 on 11 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding in 12 of the last 15 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 464 of 602 opponents (.771), posting a 369-95 (.795) mark in those games. The Spartans have out-rebounded 19 of 21 opponents this season, losing the only game in which they were out-rebounded (Minnesota). They rank 4th in the Big Ten and 22nd in the nation with a +7.3 rebounding margin.

Big Ten Win No. 200
Tom Izzo recorded his 200th Big Ten victory with MSU's 81-72 win at Penn State. He joins Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) as the only coaches in a power six conference with 200 conference wins at their current school. Mike Montgomery (California) has more than 200 Pac 12 wins, but a majority of those came in a previous stint with Stanford. With 202 Big Ten wins, Izzo trails Bob Knight (353), Gene Keady (265), Ward Lambert (228), Lou Henson (214), and Branch McCracken (210).

Big Ten Success
Michigan State has won 13 Big Ten Championships, including three of the last four, since joining the league prior to the 1950-51 season. The Spartans' first ever league game was at Northwestern, where MSU claimed a 67-62 victory on Jan. 6, 1951. All-time, MSU is 560-452 (.553) in league play, including 202-92 (.687) under Tom Izzo, who ranks sixth in league history with 202 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to seven of its 13 league crowns. Since Izzo's first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 202-92, 16.5 games better than second-place Wisconsin (185-108).

Harris' Immediate Impact
Gary Harris ranks second on the team and among Big Ten freshmen in scoring at 12.7 points per contest. If you only consider games in which he played more than a minute, he's averaging 13.4 ppg. He opened his Spartan career by becoming just the third freshman in MSU history to score in double figures in each of his first three games. He suffered a shoulder sprain in the first defensive possession of the fourth game of the season against Boise State, and missed the two games following that one. He is a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, earning the honor on Nov. 19 and Dec. 10. He's averaging 13.3 in Big Ten play, leading conference freshmen. Harris leads MSU in 3-pointers made (34) and attempted (85), and has made 50 percent (19-of-38) of his shots from behind the arc in conference action.

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State's first of 15 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 167 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (153), Kentucky (149), Duke (147) and Connecticut (139). (Through Jan. 29)

Another Izzo Milestone
Tom Izzo became the third-winningest coach in Big Ten history with Michigan State's win vs. Purdue. The victory was win No. 424, passing Lou Henson (423 wins; 1975-96). Izzo (429 wins) now trails just Bob Knight (662; 1971-2000) and Gene Keady (512; 1980-2005).

Spartan Double-Doubles
Four different Spartans have posted a double-double this season. Adreian Payne (Nicholls State, Loyola, Tuskegee) and Branden Dawson (Connecticut, Purdue, Wisconsin) lead the way with three. Derrick Nix (Tuskegee and Texas) has two, while Denzel Valentine (Oakland) has one.

Spartan Defense
The 2011-12 season was one of Michigan State's best defensive efforts on record. The Spartans ranked second in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot .379 from the field, the lowest percentage by Spartan opponents since 1957-58 (.343). In addition, MSU ranked No. 15 in the nation in scoring defense (59.3 ppg) and 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.299). This season, MSU is allowing opponents to shoot .384 from the field, ranking third in the Big Ten, including .308 from 3-point range, ranking fifth. MSU also ranks third in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 58.6 points per contest. In MSU's two conference losses, the Spartans have allowed 75.5 points on .538 shooting, as Minnesota and Indiana are the only two Big Ten teams to shoot over 50 percent from the field.

There's An App For That
Keith Appling leads the Spartans in scoring (13.5 ppg - 13th Big Ten) and assists (4.1 apg - 6th Big Ten), having led MSU in scoring in 11 games, and scoring 20 or more points three times. In addition, he's establishing himself as one of the premier defenders in the nation. His play has not gone unnoticed by his head coach, as Tom Izzo remarked "I'm not an easy guy to please. But I'm really excited for him and proud of him for what he's doing right now in an incredible way." He was named captain on Jan. 20.

Improved 3-Point Shooting
Since the start of Big Ten play, Michigan State has been shooting better from 3-point range. Over the last eight games, the Spartans are shooting .402 (45-of-112) from behind the arc, ranking fourth in the Big Ten. The high percentage can be directly attributed to prolific shooting from Gary Harris (.500; 19-of-38) and Travis Trice (.400; 10-of-25) in conference action.

Spartans Shooting Better
Michigan State got off to a cold shooting start this season, failing to shoot better than 39 percent in either half in the opener against Connecticut. In the 40 halves of basketball that have followed, the Spartans have shot 50 percent or better 16 times. Through 21 games, MSU is shooting .463 from the field, ranking third in the Big Ten.

Nix Attacks The Glass
Derrick Nix ranks seventh in the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 6.8 caroms per contest. Nix grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in his Spartan debut three seasons ago, but did not record double figures in rebounds again until the 2012-13 season opener when he collected 11 boards against Connecticut. He has four double-figure rebounding games this season, and has recorded two double-doubles this season. They were his first double-doubles since his Spartan debut. Following a career-high 25-point, 11-rebound effort against Texas, he was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Dec. 24.

Searching For A Rotation
Michigan State has used five different starting lineups this year, as the Spartans returned to the lineup it used to open the season in the last three games. Eight current Spartans are averaging nine minutes or more per game, and 10 are averaging 4.6 minutes or more. Finding a rotation was difficult early in the season due to injuries to Travis Trice, Matt Costello and Gary Harris. In fact, the game at Miami (No. 7 of the season) was the first game in which all non-redshirting scholarship players saw action, and even then, Trice and Harris were just coming off injuries.

Appling At Winning Time
In several of Michigan State's wins, Keith Appling has made key plays down the stretch to secure a Spartan victory. Against Kansas, Appling scored five points in the final 1:36, first hitting a 3-pointer to give MSU a four-point lead, and then connecting on an acrobatic driving layup with 14 seconds left to give MSU a 67-64 win. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half against the Jayhawks. Against Boise State, with MSU leading by two points in the final minute, Appling hit another driving layup with 14 seconds left, this time converting on a three-point play to give MSU a 73-68 advantage. Against Oakland, with the Golden Grizzlies having cut the lead to four points with under seven minutes left, Appling knocked down a 3-pointer to spark a 15-1 run to close the game. At Iowa, he scored six of his 12 points in the final 1:49, including hitting all four free throw attempts in the final 20 seconds of a three-point Spartan win. Against Ohio State, he had a direct hand in MSU's final nine points, including scoring the Spartans' final six points in the last 41 seconds; assisting on Adreian Payne's three-point play, driving past Aaron Craft for a go-ahead layup, scoring on a breakaway dunk and sealing the game with two free throws with 7.9 seconds left. After the OSU victory, Coach Tom Izzo remarked "Appling at winning time has been as good as anybody."

Freshman Contributions
Freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine have made key contributions early in their Spartan careers. Harris ranks second on the squad in scoring (12.7 ppg) and minutes (28.6 mpg). Valentine also has made his mark, ranking second in assists (2.6 apg), fourth in rebounds (4.0 rpg) and sixth in minutes (21.0 mpg). Matt Costello has seen limited action, averaging 4.6 minutes in the 15 games in which he's played.

Second-Chance Points
Michigan State is outscoring opponents, 248-179, in second-chance points for the season. That's an average of +3.3 points per game (11.8-8.5). The Spartans are averaging 11.5 offensive boards per game, with an offensive rebound percentage of .355.

Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten makes a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball. Michigan (No. 1), Indiana (No. 3), Ohio State (No. 11), Michigan State (No. 13), and Minnesota (No. 23) are all ranked in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 (Jan. 28). To make matters more difficult for MSU, the Spartans will play a combined eight games against those four teams during conference play. Michigan State's single plays are at Iowa and Penn State, and hosting Illinois and Northwestern. Last season, eight of the 12 league teams participated in the postseason, including five teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Payne's Block Party
Junior center Adreian Payne ranks sixth in Michigan State history with 91 career blocks. Ken Johnson ranks fifth with 96, while Matt Steigenga ranks fourth with 97. Earlier this season, Payne equaled his career high with four blocks against Kansas.

Spartan Captains
Senior Derrick Nix and red-shirt sophomore Russell Byrd will serve as team captains during the 2012-13 season. They were chosen by a vote of their teammates, and Tom Izzo made the announcement at MSU Men's Basketball Media Day on October 9. On Jan. 20, Izzo announced that Keith Appling was added as a team captain.

Spartan Strong
Michigan State has a reputation for being a strong, physical team and the numbers back it up. Twelve players on MSU's roster can leg press over 700 pounds, with Derrick Nix leading the way with 1100 pounds. Since his arrival on campus, Keith Appling has increased his leg press by 315 pounds under the direction of Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Vorkapich. Collectively, the Spartans can leg press 6 tons - the equivalent of three cars or one African elephant. In terms of upper body strength, Nix leads the way once again, bench pressing the NBA testing standard of 185 pounds 22 times. Gary Harris is the strongest of the guards, ranking tied with Alex Gauna for second on the team with 19 repetitions.

Athletes Too
In addition to their strength, the Spartans have also proven to be incredibly athletic, leading to the up-tempo pace Michigan State desires to play this season. When Coach Izzo recruited Adreian Payne, he called Payne the most athletic big man he's ever coached. He wasn't exaggerating as Payne holds the Izzo-era record for a standing vertical jump (no step) at 38 inches. Given a running start, three players can elevate greater than 40 inches: Keith Appling (42"), Adreian Payne (41"), and Travis Trice (40.5").

Coach Izzo
In his 18th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 429-173 (.713), and 202-92 (.687) in the Big Ten, as the coach of the Michigan State basketball program. He ranks as the winningest coach in Michigan State history, having passed his mentor Jud Heathcote with his 341st career victory on Nov. 28, 2009 . In his 17 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has captured eight National Coach of the Year awards, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001 and 2012. In 1999, Izzo was named National Coach of the year by Basketball Times, while earning similar honors from The Associated Press, Basketball News and the USBWA in '98. He also earned National Coach of the Year accolades from in 2012. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012.

Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .687 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (.710), and former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.725), Izzo (.713), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 201 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.

Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 17 seasons, Tom Izzo won 412 games, ranking tied for second in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 17 years.

Izzo's Coaching Tree
Five current Division I head coaches all served as assistants to Tom Izzo, including Tom Crean (Indiana), Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech), Stan Heath (South Florida), Mark Montgomery (Northern Illinois) and Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston). Mike Garland served as head coach at Cleveland State for three seasons and Stan Joplin, an assistant during Izzo's first season, spent 12 seasons as head coach at Toledo. Jim Boylen was head coach at Utah for four years.



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