Spartans Play In NYC For Super Saturday Hoops
 
 
 
Michigan State steps out of conference to play Georgetown in Madison Square Garden as part of Super Saturday Hoops.
 
Michigan State steps out of conference to play Georgetown in Madison Square Garden as part of Super Saturday Hoops.
 
 

Jan. 31, 2014

#7/6 Michigan State (19-2, 8-1) vs. Georgetown (11-9, 3-6)
 Date Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014
 Time 3 p.m. ET
 Location New York, N.Y. | Madison Square Garden
 Television Fox Sports 1 (Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Game Notes Michigan State
 Statistics  Michigan State | Georgetown
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State takes a break from conference action to face Georgetown in Madison Square Garden. The Spartans are coming off a gritty overtime win at Iowa on Tuesday. This is the second trip to New York for MSU this season, having won a pair of games in Brooklyn in November.

THE STARTING FIVE
1. Harris' Efficiency

Gary Harris has been the very definition of efficiency in the last four games, totaling 83 points on 47 field-goal attempts, averaging 20.8 points on 27-of-47 field goals (.574), including 10-of-20 from 3-point range (.500). In Big Ten play, Harris is shooting .466 from the field and .404 from 3-point range, a marked improvement from the start of the season, when he connected on just .276 (16-58) of his 3-pointers through his first seven games while still nursing a sprained ankle.

2. Next Man Up
There's no secret that the Spartans have been forced to deal with several injuries this season, but they understand that their opponents won't ease up, nor are they looking for any sympathy. Just as the Spartan football team employed the "Next Man Up" motto, with reserve linebacker Kyler Elsworth making the game-clinching fourth-down stop in the Rose Bowl, so too has the Spartan basketball team. For instance, in the six games that Adreian Payne has missed, Matt Costello has averaged 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, compared to 2.6 points and 3.0 rebounds before that. Denzel Valentine has also elevated his production, averaging 8.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in Payne's absence. When Branden Dawson went down last week, more opportunities opened in the Spartan lineup. First, Alvin Ellis III doubled his career high with 12 points against Michigan. Against Iowa, Russell Byrd stepped up and hit a game-clinching 3-pointer in overtime after not playing in five of the first six Big Ten games, and not hitting a 3-pointer since Dec. 17. In addition, Costello is averaging 10.0 rebounds in the last two games, with the team's two best rebounders on the sidelines.

3. Spartans Away From Home
Michigan State is a perfect 10-0 away from home this season, including 6-0 on an opponent's home court, and 4-0 on a neutral court. It marks the first time in school history that MSU has won at least its first seven games away from East Lansing. The Spartans are scoring 77.5 points per game away from Breslin Center, with four players averaging 13 points or more (Gary Harris-18.2 ppg, Keith Appling-15.7 ppg, Adreian Payne-15.7 ppg, Branden Dawson-12.6 ppg). Opponents are shooting just .391 from the field. By winning at Penn State and Indiana to open conference play, it marked the first time since 2008-09 and just the second time in school history that MSU opened league play with a 2-0 record with both games on the road. MSU won its first five true road games by 14 points or more, marking the first time in school history it has accomplished that feat during a single season. MSU has been especially dominant in the second half of true road games, out-scoring opponents by an average of +11.6 points.

4. The Complete Package
Gary Harris gets a lot of notoriety for his scoring, as he ranks second in the Big Ten (18.3 ppg). But what makes him special is his ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the court, leading the Spartans with 37 steals, ranking third in the conference (2.1 spg). In Big Ten action, he ranks second in scoring (18.7 ppg) and paces the conference in steals (2.8 spg). Since returning to the starting lineup on Dec. 28, he has totaled 30 steals (3.0 spg).

5. Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 17.5 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking fourth in the nation. With 368 assists on 596 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 61.7 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) (NCAA stats through Jan. 26). Keith Appling is tied for second in the conference in assists (4.9 apg) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5). Four Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (3.8 apg), Gary Harris (2.8 apg), and Travis Trice (2.1 apg) join Appling.

MSU VS. GEORGETOWN NOTES
Series History

Michigan State won the only previous meeting with Georgetown, defeating the Hoyas, 80-68, in the second round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament.

Coach Thompson
John Thompson III (Princeton, '88) is 288-140 in his 14th season as a Division I head coach, including 220-98 in his 10th season at Georgetown. During his time at Georgetown, he has led the Hoyas to three BIG EAST regular-season titles, while winning 20 games or more in seven of his previous nine seasons.

The Last Meeting
No. 5 seed Michigan State defeated No. 4 seed Georgetown, 80-68, on March 15, 1986, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. The Spartans led 32-30 at the half, but All-American Scott Skiles had scored just six points. After getting into an altercation with Georgetown's Michael Jackson on the way to the locker room, Skiles exploded for 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Larry Polec added 16 points and 10 rebounds for MSU. For the game, MSU shot 54.2 percent, as the Spartans hit 15-of-22 shots (.682) after halftime, while also connecting on 84.8 percent of their free throws for the contest, including 18-of-20 (.900) in the second half. David Wingate led the Hoyas with 17 points and Reggie Williams added 15.

Hoya Notes
Georgetown's starting backcourt of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (17.1 ppg) and Markel Starks (16.4 ppg) combine to score 47.0 percent of Georgetown's points (669 of 1424 points) ... GU returns four starters - Nate Lubick, Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick and Mikael Hopkins - from last year's squad that won the BIG EAST regular-season title. Those four players plus D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera have combined for 253 starts in the last two-plus seasons.

GM. 21 RECAP • MICHIGAN STATE 71 - IOWA 69, OT
Michigan State held an early 10-3 lead, but Iowa responded with an 11-3 run. After that, neither team could get much separation in the first half, with Iowa taking a slim 30-26 lead into the break. In the second half, the Hawkeyes made a couple attempts to pull away, but the Spartans had an answer for each one. Twice, Iowa would take a six point lead, only to watch MSU pull back ahead. With 5:58 remaining, Iowa held a 57-51 advantage, but a 3-pointer from Keith Appling, followed by a layup and transition dunk from Matt Costello gave the Spartans a 58-57 lead. With 1:04 remaining, Gary Harris gave MSU a 61-60 lead by hitting one-of-two free throws, but Iowa's Mike Gesell tied the game by hitting one-of-two in response. Both teams had another crack to score but couldn't, sending the game into overtime. Iowa opened the extra stanza with two free throws, before Keith Appling put the Spartans ahead with a 3-pointer. After Iowa tied the game at 64, Costello split a pair of free throws, but Denzel Valentine grabbed the offensive rebound on the miss. The possession ended with a tip-in from Costello as MSU took a 67-64 lead. After an Iowa miss, Valentine found Russell Byrd in the corner for a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to give the Spartans a 70-64 lead as they held on for a 71-69 victory.

MSU VS. IOWA NOTES
* Michigan State snapped Iowa's 20-game home winning streak, dating back to MSU's win in Iowa City on Jan. 10, 2013.
* Michigan State held Iowa without a field goal for a stretch of 14:50 from the 9:56 mark of the second half until just six seconds remained in overtime.
* MSU improved to 3-0 in overtime games.
* Matt Costello posted his first career double-double with career highs in both points (11) and rebounds (12).
* Russell Byrd's game-clinching 3-pointer in the last minute of overtime was his first made 3-pointer since the Dec. 17 contest vs. North Florida.
* After shooting just 32.1 percent in the first half, the Spartans connected on 51.6 percent (16-31) after the break.
* After hitting just two of his previous 14 3-point field goal attempts, Keith Appling hit 3-of-6 from behind the arc against the Hawkeyes.
* The lead changed 16 times, marking the most in any Spartan game this season.
* Iowa's 30 free throws and 43 free throw attempts were season highs for a Spartan opponent.

MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Spartan Defense

Michigan State has held opponents below 40 percent shooting for the year in each of the last two seasons, limiting opponents to .390 FG% last year (ranking 22nd in the nation) and .379 FG% in 2011-12 (ranking second in the nation). It's the first time the Spartans have held opponents below 40 percent in back-to-back seasons since MSU did it three straight seasons from 1999-2000 to 2001-02. MSU's first 21 opponents are shooting .382 from the floor, ranking second in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation (NCAA stats through Jan. 26), including .323 from 3-point range, ranking eighth. In conference games, MSU ranks tied for first in scoring defense (64.3 ppg), first in field-goal percentage defense (.391) and blocks (6.4 bpg) and second in steals (8.1 spg).

20-Win Seasons
With one more victory, MSU will record its 14th 20-win season in the last 17 years, all under head coach Tom Izzo. Of the previous 21 20-win seasons in Spartan history, Izzo has been involved in 18 of them, 13 as a head coach and five as an assistant.

Izzo To Wear "Autism Speaks" Lapel Pin
Tom Izzo is one of nearly 100 men's basketball coaches throughout the country that will be wearing the "Autism Speaks" pin on his suit jacket Saturday. Towson's Pat Skerry and Marshall's Tom Herrion, each who have sons on the autism spectrum, have started a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about this disease. The connection between Spartan basketball and autism runs deeper than just supporting a great cause. Former Spartan Anthony Ianni earned a letter in 2012, despite having been diagnosed with autism at age 4. He is believed to be the first Big Ten player with autism. Following graduation, he was appointed to the State of Michigan's first Autism Council. Through his work with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, Ianni serves as an Anti-Bullying Public Awareness Advocate, with the goal of speaking to every middle school in the state.

Rotating Starting Lineup
Michigan State has used 10 different starting lineups in the last 16 games, and a total of 11 on the season. A large part of the rotating door has been the various injuries/illnesses to strike the Spartans. It began with Gary Harris missing three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland, North Florida) in a four-game stretch with an ankle injury and also coming off the bench at Texas. Matt Costello started six of the first eight games of the season, but then missed four straight with mononucleosis before returning for conference play. Branden Dawson sat out the New Orleans game with a shin bruise and Travis Trice missed the North Florida game with foot blisters and the Ohio State game due to illness. In addition, Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) missed significant amounts of practice in early/mid December. The Spartans have been hit especially hard recently as Payne is currently dealing with a right foot sprain which forced him to miss the last six contests, while Dawson suffered a broken bone in his right hand on Jan. 23 and is out of action 4-5 weeks, and Appling has a sore right wrist.

Spartans In Overtime
Michigan State is 3-0 in overtime this season, including 2-0 at home. In fact, MSU has won its last seven overtime games, with its last loss coming to Minnesota in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans last had three overtime games in Big Ten play during the 2011 campaign.

Taking Care Of The Ball
Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzo era. MSU is currently averaging 11.2 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. The Spartans are 12-1 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten in turnover margin (+2.5), out-scoring opponents by +3.5 points per game (16.1-12.6) in points off turnovers.

Spartans Off To Record Start
The Spartans' 19-2 record matches the best 21-game record in school history, tying the effort of the 2007-08 squad. A win against Georgetown would give MSU its first 20-2 mark in school history. The 18-1 start was the best one-loss start in school history, surpassing the previous mark of 16-1 established by the 1931 and 2001 squads.

Different Ways To Win
With its 54-40 win at Northwestern, Michigan State proved it could win a low-scoring contest with its defense. But MSU has also shown it can win with a potent offense. In fact, MSU has now won games when scoring in the 50's (1), 60's (2), 70's (8), 80's (3), 90's (4), and 100's (1). Wisconsin and Michigan State are the only teams to accomplish this feat in the Big Ten, and two of just seven schools to do it nationally, joining Connecticut, Florida State, Marquette, Norfolk State and Tennessee Tech.

MSU At The Garden
Michigan State is 2-9 all-time at Madison Square Garden. Under head coach Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 2-5 at MSG. Most recently, MSU fell to Duke, 74-69, in the 2011 Champions Classic. In 2010, Syracuse defeated MSU, 72-58, in the Jimmy V Classic. The Spartans split a pair of games at the 2006 College Hoops Classic, beating a Texas squad featuring Kevin Durant (63-61) and falling to Maryland (62-60). MSU's other win at the Garden was a 77-70 victory over Boston College in the 2005 Jimmy V Classic.

Comeback Kids
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring margin (+14.3), but that doesn't mean it isn't capable of a comeback. The Spartans have overcome deficits of 10 or more points three times, and deficits of seven or more points six times. MSU is a perfect 7-0 when trailing at the half.

Appling Paces The Big Ten
Keith Appling has elevated his all-around play as a senior and is proving to be among the most dominating performers in the Big Ten, and, in fact, the country. Appling leads the conference with four games in which he's tallied at least 20 points and seven assists. The rest of the conference has just four occasions, and Appling ranks tied for fifth in the country. The Spartan senior also paces the Big Ten with three games of at least 20 points, 7 assists and five rebounds, ranking tied for second in the nation, trailing only Delaware's Jarvis Threatt (4). (National totals through games of Jan. 29.)

Kaminski For Three
Redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski is quickly establishing himself as one of the top shooters in the conference. On the season, he is shooting .462 (18-39) from 3-point range. He's been even more prolific in conference play, connecting on 14-of-31 attempts (.452) from behind the arc, ranking tied for sixth in the conference. He made a career-high five 3-pointers in seven attempts against Minnesota. Of the 17 field goals he's made in conference, 14 have been 3-pointers.

Costello With The Rejection
Since returning from missing four games with mono, Matt Costello is proving his worth in the Spartan lineup, especially on the defensive end. In nine conference games, he has totaled 16 blocks (1.8 bpg), ranking seventh in the Big Ten. Overall, he ranks eighth in the conference at 1.6 bpg (27). As his conditioning improves, however, he's also showing some offense, averaging 7.2 points in the last six games, including scoring 11 vs. Iowa, nine vs. Michigan and eight at Illinois.

Izzo Moves Up Big Ten Coaching List
With MSU's 78-62 win at Illinois, Tom Izzo passed Illinois' Lou Henson for sole possesion of fourth place on the Big Ten career victories list with 215 wins. Izzo currently stands at 217 career Big Ten wins. In MSU's 73-56 win at Indiana, Izzo moved past IU's Branch McCracken for fifth place on the career Big Ten victories list with 211. Indiana's Bob Knight is the all-time leader with 353 Big Ten wins. Ward Lambert ranks third with 228 wins, while Gene Keady is second at 265.

Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .475. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in eight games, including a season-high .631 against Mount St. Mary's. Against North Florida, MSU shot 70.8 percent in the first half. MSU has shot better than its opponent in all but one game this season.

Renewed Defensive Commitment
Following Michigan State's loss to North Carolina, Coach Izzo took the blame on himself, feeling he overreacted to some of the new rules designed to limit physical play and increase scoring, and vowed to correct that. In the 13 games since the loss, MSU is holding its opponents to 62.8 points and a .375 field-goal percentage, including .323 from 3-point range. In a related stat regarding MSU's return to basics, the Spartans own a +5.7 rebounding margin over the last 13 games. During this stretch, MSU has played six games away from home, including at Texas, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, and owns a home win over No. 3 Ohio State.

Three 15-Point Scorers
With Gary Harris (18.3 ppg), Adreian Payne (16.2 ppg) and Keith Appling (15.4 ppg), Michigan State is one of just six schools in the nation with three 15-point scorers. Other schools include Iowa State, VMI, Delaware, Temple, and Cal.-State Northridge.

Big Ten Success
Michigan State has captured at least a share of the Big Ten Championship in three of the last five seasons. After winning the title outright in 2009, the Spartans shared the conference crown in 2010 and 2012. In 2012, MSU also added a Big Ten Tournament title to its resume. During Tom Izzo's tenure, the Spartans have won seven regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.

Big Ten Success, Part II
Michigan State has won 13 Big Ten Championships, including three of the last five, 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 575-456 (.558) in league play, including 217-96 (.693) under Tom Izzo, who ranks fourth in league history with 217 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 217-96, 20.5 games better than second-place Wisconsin (196-116).

Payne From Deep
Through the first 87 games of his career, Adreian Payne shot just 1-of-4 from 3-point range. Over the last 35 games, he is 34-of-82 (.415), averaging nearly one made 3-pointer per contest. On nine occasions, including six times this season, he's made more than one in a game.

Double-Double Trouble
Six different Spartans have collected a total of 14 double-doubles this season. Branden Dawson (vs. McNeese State 12 pts., 12 reb.; vs. Virginia Tech 12 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oklahoma 18 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oakland 16 pts., 13 reb.; vs. Texas 11 pts., 10 reb.) leads the team with five, while Adreian Payne (vs. McNeese State 10 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Columbia 26 pts., 11 reb.; vs. Virginia Tech 29 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oakland 20 pts., 10 reb.) has four. Denzel Valentine (vs. New Orleans 10 pts., 13 reb.; vs. Illinois 15 pts., 11 reb.) has two, while Gary Harris (vs. McNeese State 20 pts., 10 reb.), Keith Appling (vs. Michigan 10 pts., 10 asts.) and Matt Costello (vs. Iowa 11 points, 12 rebounds) each have one. Dawson ranks tied for third in the Big Ten, while Payne is tied for fifth.

Guard Rebounds
For the Spartans to maintain their reputation as a strong rebounding team, they will need a strong effort from their guards. In fact, three of MSU's four leading rebounders play on the perimeter. Branden Dawson is averaging a team-best 8.7 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten, from the wing. Denzel Valentine (5.9 rpg) ranks third on the team, and Gary Harris (4.6 rpg) ranks fourth. Either Dawson or Valentine has led the Spartans in rebounding in 16 of 21 games.

20-Point Spartans
Four different Spartans have scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Keith Appling (27 vs. New Orleans, 27 vs. Oklahoma, 25 vs. Portland, 24 vs. Minnesota, 22 vs. Kentucky, 21 vs. Oakland, 20 vs. Ohio State) and Gary Harris (27 vs. Michigan, 26 vs. Indiana, 24 vs. Indiana, 23 vs. Illinois, 21 vs. Oklahoma, 20 vs. McNeese State, 20 vs. Kentucky) lead the way with seven 20-point efforts, while Adreian Payne (33 vs. Texas, 29 vs. Virginia Tech, 26 vs. Columbia, 20 vs. Oakland) has four. Branden Dawson joined the club with 20 points vs. Penn State in the Big Ten opener.

On The Run
Michigan State is eager to get out in transition this season, even more so than normal. Speaking at MSU's annual media day, Izzo told the assembled media "I think we should be a team that can run, run, run and run." Through 21 games, MSU is averaging 79.2 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten, including 16.0 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.

Outside Shooting
Michigan State is shooting .384 from 3-point range (163-of-425), ranking second in the Big Ten. Five Spartans (Gary Harris-42, Keith Appling-32, Travis Trice-27, Adreian Payne-18, Kenny Kaminski-18) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Trice ranks second in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.443), while Appling ranks fifth (.421). Payne (.439) would rank third if he had played in enough games. The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in eight games, after doing it just once last season, ranking third in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals per game (7.8). Last season, the Spartans shot .338 from 3-point range, hitting 177-of-523. The 2003-04 squad was the best shooting team of the Tom Izzo era, shooting .401, while the 1989-90 squad shot a school-record .431.

Spartans At The Charity Stripe
Michigan State is shooting .693 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Appling-117 attempts, .709; Payne-61 attempts, .803; Harris-93 attempts, .806) are each shooting 70 percent or better from the foul line. In fact, the three are shooting a combined .764 (207-271) from the foul line.

Payne's Senior Season
After opting to bypass the NBA Draft and return to Michigan State, Adreian Payne is determined to make the most of his senior season. A preseason first-team All-American as selected by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, Payne ranks second on the team in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg). He's posted a double-double in four games this season and 10 of his last 26 dating back to last season. Against Texas, he scored a career-high 33 points. He ranked in the Top 10 in the conference in both scoring and rebounding before falling out of the rankings due to not playing in enought games. He's captured Big Ten Player of the Week honors twice this season (Nov. 18 and Dec. 23). He's missed the last six games while resting a sprained foot.

Appling Runs The Team
Senior Keith Appling is in his third season as Michigan State's starting point guard, gaining more confidence each season. He's finished in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in assists in each of the last two seasons, but he spoke this offseason about becoming better at running his team, gaining praise from Coach Izzo for his development. He's averaging a career-best 4.9 assists per game and owns a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. In a win over No. 1 Kentucky, Appling dished out eight assists, in addition to his 22 points and eight rebounds. Coach Izzo described Appling's 25-point, seven-assist effort vs. Portland "one of the greatest point guard performances in many, many, many years when you look at what he shot and the decisions he made. He did just an unbelievable job defensively ... He was worth the price of admission." He paced MSU with a career-high 27 points vs. Oklahoma, earning Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic MVP honors. He scored a team-high 21 points vs. Oakland, including 18 points in the second half. He matched his career high with 27 points against New Orleans, adding eight assists, earning co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Dec. 30. In an overtime win against No. 3 Ohio State, Appling led the Spartans in scoring (20 points) and assists (7) and tied for the team lead in rebounds (6). He followed with a game-high 24 points vs. Minnesota, including eight points (8-8 FT) in overtime. Against Michigan, he recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 assists. He's led MSU in scoring in nine games and in assists 15 times. The Spartans are a perfect 9-0 when Appling leads the team in scoring.

Spartan Spurtability
MSU's dynamic offense has shown the ability to score points in bunches. During the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn, the Spartans closed the first half on both games with large runs. Against Virginia Tech, MSU had a 15-3 run over the final 4:18. The next day, MSU closed the Oklahoma first half on a 34-9 run over the final 10:38, including a 13-0 spurt over the final 4:36. MSU has also shown the ability to start with a burst, opening the Kentucky game with a 10-0 run, and a 9-0 run vs. Columbia. MSU used a 19-2 run over two halves to put Mount St. Mary's away. Against North Florida, MSU opened the contest with a 21-4 spurt, that included an 11-0 run. A 14-2 run midway through the second half turned a two point deficit against Texas into a 10-point lead. In a 53-point win over New Orleans, the Spartans posted a 21-0 second-half run, along with two 12-0 first-half spurts. In the Big Ten opener at Penn State, MSU opened the second half with a 10-0 run, and put the game away with a 20-3 spurt. At Indiana, MSU had a 15-1 run over the final 2:48 of the first half and first 2:24 of the second half, after a 10-0 run earlier in the first half. A 13-2 second half run seemed to give MSU enough of a cushion against Ohio State. MSU used a 15-0 run vs. Minnesota to turn a 10-point deficit into a five point advantage with a 15-0 run during a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. At Illinois, MSU took control of the game with an 11-3 run over the final 4:02 of the first half. A 21-6 spurt over seven-and-a-half minutes late in the second half against Indiana turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead. MSU had a 12-1 run in the first half of the Michigan contest.

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of MSU's first of 16 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 180 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 (163), Kentucky (155), Duke (155), and Connecticut (145).

Valentine And Trice Are Key Contributors
Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were not in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season when MSU had its full complement of players, but in the eyes of Coach Izzo, they might as well have been. Izzo has regularly referred to the duo as "super subs." Valentine ranks fifth on the team in scoring (7.5 ppg) and minutes (28.1 mpg), while Trice ranks sixth in scoring (7.0 ppg) and minutes (20.2 mpg). Valentine (3.8 apg) is second in assist average, while Trice (2.1 apg) is fourth.

MSU's Super Sophomore
Following a season that saw him earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, Gary Harris is looking for an even better season as a sophomore. After opting to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season rather than enter the NBA Draft, Harris entered 2013-14 as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honoree and a popular pick for preseason All-America accolades. He opened the season by recording his first career double-double with 20 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing out a career-high six assists. He followed that effort with another 20-point contest against No. 1 Kentucky. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in seven games. He missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland and North Florida) while resting an injured ankle, but is averaging 18.7 points in 11 games since his return.

Dawson's Energy On Display
Branden Dawson didn't miss a game last season despite tearing his ACL at the end of his freshman year, and yet he wasn't functioning at 100 percent. He has been a much more active player this season, exhibiting the rare combination of strength and athleticism that rank him among the Big Ten's elite. He is currently averaging a team-best 8.7 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten and leading the team in 12 of 18 games in which he's played, and 10.2 points. His tip-in with five seconds remaining sealed the win over No. 1 Kentucky. Dawson leads the team with five double-doubles. He also ranks third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.604). Dawson is out 4-5 weeks after breaking a bone in his right hand on Jan. 23.

Payne's Block Party
Senior Adreian Payne ranks second in Michigan State history with 128 career blocks, just six behind MSU career leader Drew Naymick (134 blocks). Payne blocked a career-best five shots in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament against Memphis, en route to 46 on the season, good for the sixth-best single-season effort in school history.

Nation's Best Backcourt
With Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson in the starting lineup and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine coming off the bench, Michigan State stakes a strong claim for having the nation's best backcourt. All five rank among MSU's top six in scoring, while Appling, Harris, Dawson and Trice have each scored 20 or more points at least once during their career. Not only are they dynamic offensively, they also can provide lockdown defense. With Appling and Harris, MSU features the only team in the nation with two backcourt players on the 23-man midseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 14 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 nine times and the Top 25 on 12 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in conference games in 11 of the last 16 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 490 of 638 opponents (.768), posting a 390-100 (.796) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +4.8 rebounding margin, ranking third in the Big Ten, and has out-rebounded 13 of 21 opponents.

Returning Productivity
MSU returns six of its top seven scorers from last season, in featuring one of the nation's most experienced rosters to start the season. The Spartans return 84.2 percent of their scoring, 79.3 percent of their rebounding and 84.0 percent of their assists. Five returning Spartans started 15 or more games last season, including four with 24 or more starts. Six returners played 500 or more minutes last season. By comparison, entering last year, just five Spartans had played more than 350 minutes in their career.

Robertson Trophy Watch List
Senior guard Keith Appling and sophomore guard Gary Harris are two of 23 players named to the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List. The list was selected by the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Michigan State is one of six schools with two players on the list of 15. The award will be presented to the national player of the year by its namesake at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14, 2014 in Oklahoma City.

MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are currently ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. Seven Spartan opponents are also ranked in at least one of the polls, including Michigan (10 AP/14 USA Today), Kentucky (11/11), Wisconsin (14/13), Iowa (15/12), Oklahoma (23/25), Ohio State (24/23), and Texas (25/-).

Wooden And Naismith Award Watch Lists
Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have each earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list. The Spartans are one of four schools to have two players on the list. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the official voting ballot, which will consist of approximately 20 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Players not on the midseason list are still eligible to appear on the ballot. The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation's top 10 players, will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. Gary Harris and Payne have also been named to the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List.

Cousy Award Watch List
Senior Keith Appling is one of 47 players on the watch list of candidates for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. The annual honor, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guards in men's college basketball. This watch list of candidates will be narrowed down to a final 20 in early February, then final five by early March. The Cousy Award winner will be presented the award on Championship Monday in Dallas at the Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 Announcement and Press Conference.

1,000 Point Scorers
Last season, Keith Appling became the 43rd player in Michigan State history to record 1,000 career points, and just the 29th player to reach the milestone in three seasons. With 1,441 career points, he ranks 20th in MSU career scoring, 27 points behind Charlie Bell (1,468 points). With 966 points, Adreian Payne is likely to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.

MSU's Center Rotation
Sophomore Matt Costello has been the starting center in 13 games, but redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling are also in contention for the spot. The trio is averaging a combined 8.1 points and 7.6 rebounds.

MSU At No. 1
Earlier this season, Michigan State held the No. 1 spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls for three straight weeks for the first time in school history. Although the Spartans have been ranked in the Top 10 in 15 of Tom Izzo's 19 seasons, and the Top 5 in 11 seasons, this was just the second season under Coach Izzo, and just the third time in school history that MSU has held the top spot in the AP Top 25, having previously been ranked No. 1 for two weeks in both 1978-79 and 2000-01. The Spartans have an all-time record of 9-4 at No. 1.

Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball, an honor bestowed on it by ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman on Nov. 5. Five conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 6 Michigan State, No. 12 Iowa, No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 14 Michigan, and No. 23 Ohio State. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.

Spartan Freshmen
Michigan State could feature as many as three freshmen in its playing group, including red-shirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, and true freshmen Alvin Ellis III and Gavin Schilling. Kaminski redshirted last season following a shoulder injury he suffered last fall. He provides a big man with excellent shooting ability for the Spartans. Ellis III and Schilling were actually prep teammates as juniors at Chicago De La Salle High School before Schilling transferred to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his senior season. Ellis III provides a solid all-around presence on the perimeter, while Schilling provides great strength and quickness in the post. Both Ellis III and Schilling were added during the spring signing period in 2013.

THE BOOK ON TOM IZZO
Coach Izzo

In his 19th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 458-180 (.718), and 217-96 (.693) 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 18 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 CBSSports.com 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 .693 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (.698), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.725), Izzo (.718), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 217 conference victories, Izzo ranks fourth all-time.

Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 18 seasons, Tom Izzo won 439 games, ranking fourth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 18 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.