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Spartans Back At Home To Host North Florida

MSU hosts North Florida on Tuesday night.

Dec. 16, 2013

#5/5 Michigan State (8-1) vs. North Florida (5-6)
 Date Tuesday, December 17, 2013
 Time 7 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television BTN (Eric Collins, Greg Kelser)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Tickets Available at
 Game Notes Michigan State | North Florida
 Statistics  Michigan State | North Florida
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

Michigan State will play its first home game in nearly two weeks as the Spartans host North Florida on Tuesday night. With academic finals now completed, MSU will look to get healthy and continue to improve as a team with just three more non-conference games remaining before the start of Big Ten play.

1. Lending A Helping Hand

Michigan State is averaging 20.0 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and leading the nation. With 180 assists on 274 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 65.7 percent of their baskets. MSU also leads the Big Ten and ranks sixthnationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.75) (NCAA stats through Dec. 15). Keith Appling is second in the conference in assists (5.1 apg) and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4). Five Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (3.8 apg), Travis Trice (2.8 apg), Gary Harris (2.7 apg), and Branden Dawson (2.6 apg) join Appling.

2. Breslin Advantage
Michigan State is 331-47 (.876) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 171-35 (.830) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 257-32 (.889) at Breslin, including a 130-22 (.855) conference record. MSU has won 38 of the last 41 games at Breslin. The Spartans have won 73 of the last 75 non-conference home games.

3. 20-Point Spartans
Three different Spartans have scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Keith Appling leads the way with four 20-point efforts (27 vs. Oklahoma, 25 vs. Portland, 22 vs. Kentucky, 21 vs. Oakland), while Gary Harris (21 vs. Oklahoma, 20 vs. McNeese State, 20 vs. Kentucky) and Adreian Payne (29 vs. Virginia Tech, 26 vs. Columbia, 20 vs. Oakland) each have three.

4. Double-Double Trouble
Three different Spartans have collected a total of nine 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.) and 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.) each have four, while Gary Harris posted one in the season opener (vs. McNeese State 20 pts., 10 reb.).

5. 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 29 games, he is 29-of-69 (.420), averaging one made 3-pointer per contest. On seven occasions, including four times this season, he's made more than one in a game.

Series History

This is the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and North Florida. MSU is 10-2 against current members of the Atlantic Sun, including 7-0 vs. East Tennessee State, 1-0 vs. Stetson, 1-0 vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 1-1 vs. Jacksonville and 0-1 vs. Mercer. UNF is 0-7 against Big Ten teams, including 0-2 vs. Ohio State, 0-2 vs. Northwestern, 0-1 vs. Minnesota, 0-1 vs. Purdue and 0-1 vs. Indiana.

Coach Driscoll
Matthew Driscoll (Slippery Rock, `92) is 88-155 in his ninth season as a collegiate head coach, including 62-78 in his fifth season at North Florida. Driscoll's first head coaching job was at LaRoche College from 1993-97. Following his time there, he was a Division I assistant at Wyoming, Clemson, Valparaiso and Baylor.

Osprey Notes
North Florida moved to Division I in 2005-06 and became a full member in 2009-10 ... Michigan State is the third Big Ten school the Ospreys will play this season, having previously lost to Ohio State (64-99) and Indiana (68-89) ... All 11 active UNF players have a 10+ point game this season ... Michigan will be the eighth different state in which North Florida has already played this season.

Oakland held the lead for much of the first half, beginning with a Travis Bader 3-pointer at the 16:22 mark to take an 8-6 lead. On two occasions the Golden Grizzlies pushed their lead out to eight points, but MSU never let OU get too far ahead. A steal by Keith Appling and layup from Branden Dawson cut the Spartan deficit to a single point at 31-30 at the half. MSU scored the first five points of the second half to take a 35-31 lead. But Oakland held strong in a second half that featured nine lead changes. The Grizzlies took their last lead at 47-46 following two Bader free throws. MSU responded with a lob from Denzel Valentine to Adreian Payne, and then Appling found Alvin Ellis III for a transition dunk. Oakland answered with a 3-pointer from Duke Mondy, tying the game at 50. On MSU's next possession, Appling hit a 3-pointer of his own, then he found Dawson for a shot-clock beating layup, and followed with a three-point play, pushing MSU's lead out to 58-50, as OU never got closer than four points after that.

* After totaling three points and four turnovers in the first half, Keith Appling bounced back with 18 points and just two turnovers in the second half.
* Keith Appling had six points and two assists during a decisive 12-3 run midway through the second half.
* MSU was without starters Gary Harris (ankle) and Matt Costello (mono).
* Branden Dawson matched his career high with 13 rebounds.
* After hitting 2-of-9 3-pointers in the first half, MSU hit 4-of-7 in the second.
* 120 of the game's 130 points were scored by starters.
* 14 offensive rebounds for MSU led to a 14-5 edge in second-chance points.

Outside Shooting
Michigan State is shooting .374 from 3-point range (70-of-186), ranking third in the Big Ten. Four Spartans (Keith Appling-17, Gary Harris-16, Adreian Payne-13, Travis Trice-13) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in three games, after doing it just once last season. 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.

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 nine games, MSU is averaging 81.4 points per game, including 18.1 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.

Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .481. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in four games, including a season-high .631 against Mount St. Mary's. MSU has shot better than its opponent in all but one game this season.

Taking Care Of The Ball
Admittedly it is early, but Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzo era. MSU is currently averaging 11.4 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12.

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 177 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 (162), Duke (154), Kentucky (154), and Connecticut (143).

Super Subs
Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine are not normally in the starting lineup, but in the eyes of Coach Izzo, they might as well be. Izzo has regularly referred to the duo as "super subs." Trice ranks fifth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and sixth in minutes (21.6 mpg), while Valentine ranks sixth in scoring (6.7 ppg) and fifth in minutes (24.7 mpg). Valentine (3.8 apg) is second in assists, while Trice (2.8 apg) is third.

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, and one of 15 players on the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Payne ranks third on the team in scoring (16.3 ppg) and and second in rebounding (8.0 rpg). He's posted a double-double in four games this season and 10 of the last 20 dating back to last season. Against Virginia Tech, he scored a career-high 29 points.

Spartans At The Charity Stripe
Michigan State is shooting .719 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Appling-42 attempts, .738; Payne-36 attempts, .778, Harris-28 attempts, .893) are each shooting better than 73 percent from the foul line.

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 5.1 assists per game and owns a 2.4 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. Recently, he scored a team-high 21 points vs. Oakland, including 18 points in the second half.

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.

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.

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 nine opponents are shooting .391 from the floor, including .318 from 3-point range.

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. Early indications in 2013-14 are that Dawson is a much more active player, exhibiting the rare combination of strength and athleticism that rank him among the Big Ten's elite. He is currently averaging a team-best 9.3 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten and leading the team in seven of nine games, and 10.0 points. His tip-in with five seconds remaining sealed the win over No. 1 Kentucky. Dawson is tied with Adreian Payne for the team lead with four double-doubles.

An Efficient Harris
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 enters 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 Spartans in scoring, averaging 17.6 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in three of his seven games. He missed both the Mount St. Mary's and Oakland contests while resting an injured ankle.

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 482 of 626 opponents (.770), posting a 382-100 (.793) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +4.0 rebounding margin, and has been out-rebounded in four of nine contests.

Payne's Block Party
Senior Adreian Payne ranks second in Michigan State history with 124 career blocks, just 10 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.

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 forward Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Gary Harris are two of 15 players named to the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy Preseason Watch List. The preseason watch list was selected by the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Michigan State is the only school 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. The Big Ten leads all conference with four candidates as Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Michigan's Mitch McGary are also on the list.

Wooden And Naismith Award Watch Lists
Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne have each earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. The Spartans are one of four schools to have at least three players on the list. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 10 players on the list of 50. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the midseason list and 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. 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. 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.

MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are currently ranked No. 5 in both the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press Top 25. Five Spartan opponents are also ranked in at least one of the polls, including Ohio State (3 AP/t-2 USA Today), Wisconsin (4/6), North Carolina (14/18), Kentucky (19/21), Iowa (25/-).

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 1,270 career points, he ranks 26th in MSU career scoring, five points behind Quinton Brooks (1,275 points). With 870 points, Adreian Payne is on pace to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.

The Fifth Starter
Most of Michigan State's starting lineup is pretty-much etched in stone as Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne all return from the 2012-13 starting lineup. But the fifth spot is a little bit more unsettled. Sophomore Matt Costello has been the starter in six of the first eight games. But redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling are also in contention for the spot. The trio is averaging a combined 6.4 points and 6.4 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's Jeff Goodman on Nov. 5. Six conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan State, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 22 Iowa and No. 25 Michigan. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.

Conference Favorites
Michigan State was announced as a unanimous preseason favorite for the conference championship at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Oct. 31. Michigan was picked to finish second and Ohio State was third. Spartan sophomore Gary Harris was tabbed the preseason player of the year, and senior Adreian Payne joined Harris on the preseason All-Big Ten squad.

Individual Accolades
In addition to the predicted team success, several Spartans have been the recipient of preseason honors. Senior Adreian Payne was named first-team All-American by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, while earning third-team honors from Athlon Sports and Sophomore Gary Harris was selected as a first-team All-American by Jeff Goodman of, while being tabbed as a second-team All-American by USA Today Sports, Athlon Sports and Harris and Payne are both consensus selections for preseason All-Big Ten honors, but senior Keith Appling and junior Branden Dawson have also earned spots on various all-conference teams.

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.

Coach Izzo

In his 19th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 447-179 (.714), and 209-95 (.688) 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 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 .688 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 (.706), 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 (.728), Izzo (.714), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 209 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth 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.



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