Men's Basketball Faces Road Test At Gonzaga
 
 
 
The Spartans play at Gonzaga on Saturday night.
 
The Spartans play at Gonzaga on Saturday night.
 
 

Dec. 8, 2011

EAST LANSING, Mich. -

Michigan State (7-2) vs. Gonzaga (5-1)
 Date Saturday, Dec. 10
 Time 9 p.m. ET
 Location Spokane, Wash. | McCarthey Athletic Center
 Television ESPN2 (Dave Flemming, Dan Dakich)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Game Notes Michigan State
 Statistics  Michigan State
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

The Opening Tip
The Spartans take their seven-game winning streak on the road to Gonzaga, as Michigan State will play its third ranked opponent of the non-conference schedule. The game also marks the third long trip in the first month of the season for MSU, as the Spartans will have logged more than 8,000 miles by the time they return to East Lansing. Featuring a defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in several categories, MSU has also been strong offensively in recent games, averaging 99.5 points in its last two contests.

The Starting Five
1. Winning Streak

Michigan State is riding a seven-game winning streak. Last year, MSU's longest winning streak was just three games to open the season. This is MSU's longest win streak since winning 10 straight from Dec 2009-Jan 2010. During the current streak, MSU is averaging 78.4 points and shooting .489 from the field, while holding opponents to 52.7 points on .339 shooting.

2. It's All About Boardwork
After leading the nation in rebounding margin in both 2009 (+9.3) and 2010 (+8.6), Michigan State ranked 48th in the nation last season at +4.0. The Spartans have shown a better effort in 2011-12, out-rebounding all nine opponents by a +12.6 margin, including four by 15 or more, leading the Big Ten and the nation (through Dec. 4). The Spartans have led the nation in rebounding margin in four of the last 12 seasons, ranking in the top 10 seven times and the top 25 on 10 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in 11 of the last 14 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 425 of 553 opponents (.769), posting a 335-90 (.788) mark in those games.

3. Second-Chance Points
Michigan State is outscoring opponents 140-67 in second chance points for the season. That's an average of +8.2 per game (15.6-7.4). The Spartans are averaging 14.3 offensive rebounds per game, ranking second in the Big Ten. MSU has 129 offensive rebounds on the year compared to 196 defensive rebounds for its opponents, good for an offensive rebound percentage of .397, ranking second in the conference.

4. Strong Spartan Defense
Michigan State's defensive effort has been impressive in the first month of the season. The Spartans are allowing just 56.7 points (ranking 11th in the nation through Dec. 4) on .361 shooting (15th in nation), including .281 from 3-point range (38th in nation). MSU also ranks 35th in the nation in steals (8.7 spg). Those numbers are especially impressive when you consider MSU has played No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke. The Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense, second in field-goal percentage defense and third in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. During MSU's seven-game win streak, the Spartans are allowing just 52.7 points on .339 shooting, including .252 from 3-point range.

5. Finding The Long Distance Connection
Through the first six games of the season, MSU was shooting just .269 from 3-point range (32-119). In the last three games, however, the Spartans have shown signs of breaking out of their slump, connecting on .429 of their shots (24-56) from behind the arc.

MSU vs. Gonzaga Notes
Series History

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Gonzaga, 3-1, although this is the first meeting in Spokane. Three of the four meetings have been decided by four points or less, including a classic three overtime game at the 2005 Maui Invitational.

Coach Few
Mark Few (Oregon, '87) is 321-84 in his 13th season as a collegiate head coach at Gonzaga. He has led the Bulldogs to 13 straight NCAA Tournaments, including four Sweet 16 appearances. Under Few, Gonzaga has won or shared 11 straight WCC regular-season titles. Prior to taking over as head coach, Few served as an assistant at Gonzaga for eight years and two as a graduate assistant.

The Last Meeting
Michigan State defeated Gonzaga, 75-71, on Nov. 17, 2009, in East Lansing. The Bulldogs led by as many as 13 points in the first half and held a 35-30 advantage at the half. Gonzaga then scored the first five points of the second half, quickly pushing their lead back up to 10 points. MSU battled back to take a 47-45 lead, only to watch an 11-2 Bulldog run put Gonzaga back on top 56-49. MSU kept fighting and tied the game at 65. GU hit two free throws and MSU called a timeout. Coach Tom Izzo drew up a play to get Durrell Summers a 3-pointer and he knocked it down to give MSU a 68-67 lead with 3:02 remaining. MSU's defense forced a miss and Kalin Lucas hit one of two free throws. After another Bulldog miss, Raymar Morgan scored to give MSU a 71-67 lead. Gonzaga then scored three straight points, but Lucas answered with a driving layup to extend the Spartan advantage to 73-70 and give MSU the victory. Summers led all scorers with 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Lucas added 19. MSU shot 32.1 percent in the first half, but 55.2 percent in the second. Robert Sacre and Elias Harris each scored 17 for Gonzaga.

Bulldog Notes
Gonzaga has three players averaging 13 points or more (Robert Sacre, Kevin Pangos, Elias Harris) ... Robert Sacre is third on the all-time Gonzaga blocked shots list with 146 ... Freshman guard Kevin Pangos is shooting an impressive .471 from 3-point range (16-34) ... Elias Harris has 11 career double-doubles, including two this season.

Coach Heathcote Connection
While Coach Jud Heathcote is synonymous with Michigan State basketball, standing as the school's all-time winningest coach with 340 victories over a 19-year career, he also has a connection with Gonzaga. Heathcote is a regular attendee at Bulldog home games, as he currently makes his home in Spokane, Wash.

Gm. 9 Recap • Michigan St. 89 - Central Conn. 69
Michigan State got off to a slow start and Central Connecticut held a 26-15 lead with 11:50 left in the first half. The Spartans responded with a 21-8 run to close the half. When Travis Trice stole the ball and raced down the court for a layup before the buzzer, MSU took a 36-34 lead into the break. The Spartans started the second half on a better note, as a 11-4 run extended the lead to 47-38 and the game never was closer than seven points after that.

MSU vs. CCSU Notes
* The victory was win No. 300 for MSU in Breslin Center (300-44).
* Travis Trice established personal bests in both scoring (20 points) and assists (5).
* Derrick Nix scored a career-best 13 points.
* Branden Dawson recorded his first career double-double (11 pts., 11 reb.).
* The Spartans shot just 38.9 percent in the first half, but a season-best 67.9 percent in the second.

MSU Basketball Notes
Three-Headed Scoring Attack

Three Spartans have emerged as Michigan State's leading scorers, as Draymond Green (14.3 ppg), Keith Appling (12.0 ppg) and Brandon Wood (9.9 ppg) are all averaging 9.9 ppg or better. It's been more pronounced over the last four games as the trio is averaging a combined 42.4 points (Green-16.8, Appling-13.8, Wood-11.8). As a group, they outscored Florida State, 56-49.

Appling's Big Week
Keith Appling was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Dec. 5 after a pair of games (vs. Florida State and Nebraska Omaha) that saw him establish new career highs in scoring (24 pts. vs. FSU), rebounding (9 vs. UNO) and assists (7 vs. UNO). For the week, he averaged 18.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 3.5 assists, shooting .619 from the field, .571 from 3-point range and 7-7 from the foul line. It was the first weekly honor for the sophomore guard from Detroit, who's making the transition from the wing to the point this season.

Guard Rebounding
One of the reasons that MSU is able to pace the nation in rebounding margin is that its guards have been strong on the glass. The Spartans' starting backcourt of Keith Appling (3.8 rpg), Brandon Wood (3.4 rpg) and Branden Dawson (4.8 rpg) averages 12.0 boards per contest. Over the last three games, Dawson and Wood are both averaging 5.7 caroms per contest, while Appling is at 5.3 rpg.

New Faces
Six of the 11 players in the Spartan playing group are seeing their first action in a Michigan State uniform (Russell Byrd, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice, Brandon Wood). The six are averaging 40.4 percent of the scoring and 43.0 percent of the minutes. There are just two players on the 2011-12 roster (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season for MSU.

Climbing The Rebounding Charts
With 797 career rebounds, Draymond Green ranks 10th in MSU history, six behind Lindsay Hairston (803) in ninth place. He also has a shot at becoming just the fourth player in MSU history with 1,000 career boards, and the third player with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, joining Greg Kelser and Johnny Green. Given that the Spartans play 31 regular season games, at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament and possibly at least one postseason game, Green would need to average 9.03 rebounds this season to reach 1,000 for his career.

Balanced Scoring
Five different Spartans have led Michigan State in scoring through the first nine games of the season. Draymond Green (four times), Keith Appling (twice), Branden Dawson, Austin Thornton and Travis Trice have each paced MSU. Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne and Brandon Wood also have scored in double figures at least once this season, making eight different players to score 10 or more in a game.

The Turnover Story
One area of concern for the Spartans has been the turnovers through the first nine games. MSU is committing 15.2 per game (although just 11.7 in the last three games), while forcing 15.7 by its opponents. The Spartans are averaging 15.7 points per game off opponent turnovers, compared to 12.9 points by opponents off MSU turnovers. The Spartans are 4-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent, but 3-2 when they have more.

Spartan Double-Doubles
Four different Spartans have recorded a double-double this season. Draymond Green leads the way with four double-doubles in the season's first nine games. Adreian Payne, Brandon Wood and Branden Dawson have each recorded one double-double.

In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of 36.4-20.9, out-scoring seven of its nine opponents. The Spartans even out-scored No. 1 North Carolina in the paint, 34-32, despite the Tar Heels having what some consider to be the premier frontline in the country.

Getting To The Foul Line
Over the first five games of the season, Michigan State was shooting just .629 from the foul line. That has improved recently, as the Spartans are shooting .761 over the last four games. For the season, MSU is shooting .677 from the foul line, averaging 21.7 attempts per game.

The 1,000-Point Club
With a second-half tip-in vs. Florida State, Draymond Green became the 42nd player in MSU history to reach the 1,000 point mark for his career. With 1,045 points, he ranks 41st in MSU history, needing 10 to move past Marcus Sanders (1,054 points) into 40th place, 15 to move past Earvin "Magic" Johnson (1,059 points) and 18 to move past Johnny Green (1,062 points).

What A Difference A Year Makes
Through the first nine games of the season, Derrick Nix is averaging 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 18.0 minutes per contest. Following his 11-point effort in 23 minutes vs. Milwaukee, Coach Tom Izzo called him one of his most reliable players. That's a contrast to last season when Nix averaged just 0.8 points and 1.8 rebounds, playing in just six of the team's first nine games, as he did not accompany the team to the Maui Invitational.

Another Strong Non-Conference Schedule
While much of the attention is directed at back-to-back games vs. North Carolina and Duke, there is more meat to MSU's non-conference schedule. Other highlights include a Nov. 30 game vs. Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, a top-three pick in the ACC, and a Dec. 10 trip to Gonzaga. In total, seven of MSU's 13 non-conference opponents appeared in the 2011 postseason, including five teams in the NCAA Tournament. Including Big Ten foes, 15 Spartan opponents appeared in last year's postseason, including 11 in the NCAA Tournament.

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season (including 2011-12 - through Dec. 7), the year of Michigan State's first of 14 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 148 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 (145), Connecticut (139), Kentucky (138) and Duke (136).

Toughest Start Ever
Michigan State opens the season with the toughest start in the nation with back-to-back neutral-site contests vs. No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke. MSU is the first team to open the season against North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games since Wake Forest and North Carolina State did it in November 1976. Michigan State also has never opened a season with two games against ranked opponents.

Big Ten Contenders
Michigan State was picked third by a panel of media in the 2011-12 Big Ten preseason poll. Ohio State and Wisconsin were picked to finish first and second, respectively. Draymond Green found a spot on the preseason all-conference team, joining Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Purdue's Robbie Hummel, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor.

Draymond On Awards Lists
Senior forward Draymond Green is a familiar face among all the new ones in the Michigan State lineup. A three-year captain, Green is on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 and the Naismith Award Watch list. He's also one of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

An Experienced New Face
Although he had never played a minute for Michigan State prior to this season, senior Brandon Wood brings a wealth of college basketball experience to the Spartan lineup. A two-time All-Horizon League performer at Valparaiso the last two seasons, Wood transfered to MSU in May after receiving his sports marketing and business degree. NCAA rules allow an institution to apply for a waiver to allow a student-athlete to transfer without sitting out a season, provided the student-athlete has earned a bachelor's degree, has eligibility remaining and is enrolling in a graduate-level program. In two seasons at Valpo, Wood scored 1,117 points, including averaging 17.7 ppg as a sophomore and 16.7 ppg as a junior. He's also performed at a high level against some of the nation's best teams, scoring 30 points vs. North Carolina, 24 vs. Michigan State and 21 vs. Purdue as a sophomore, followed by 20 vs. Purdue as a junior. This year, Wood's started all nine games for MSU, ranking third on the team in scoring at 9.9 ppg.

In The Rankings
Seven different Spartan opponents are ranked in at least one of the two polls, including Ohio State (2 AP/2 USA Today), North Carolina (4/6), Duke (7/5), Wisconsin (14/16), Michigan (20/19), Gonzaga (23/t-22) and Illinois (24/t-22). MSU is receiving votes in both polls.

U-S-A, U-S-A
Keith Appling and Draymond Green both benefitted from their experiences with USA Basketball over the summer. Green was a member of the World University Games team, averaging 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds, ranking second on the team in boards, and serving as a distributor from the forward position. Appling played with the FIBA U19 World Championship team, averaging 4.1 points and 10.3 minutes per contest, gaining some valuable experience at the point.

Same Name, Different Spellings
Among MSU's newcomers, three have the same first name, but it's spelled three different ways. Branden Dawson, Brandan Kearney and Brandon Wood each have a different second-to-last lettter in the first name. Pay close attention to eliminate typos.

The Book On Tom Izzo
Coach Izzo
In his 17th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 390-163 (.705), and 183-85 (.683) 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 16 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has won National Coach of the Year honors four times, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001. 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 earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998 and 2009.

Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .683 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks fourth all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700) and former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.729), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Lambert (.709) and Izzo (.705). With 183 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.

Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 16 seasons, Tom Izzo won 383 games, ranking sixth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 16 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 (Tulsa). 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.