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MSU Hosts New Orleans In Final Tune-Up Before Big Ten Play
Michigan State hosts New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.
Michigan State hosts New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.

Dec. 27, 2013

#5/5 Michigan State (10-1) vs. New Orleans (3-4)
 Date Saturday, December 28, 2013
 Time 4:15 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television BTN (Kevin Kugler, Jim Jackson)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Game Notes Michigan State | New Orleans
 Statistics  Michigan State | New Orleans
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

After a short break for the holidays, Michigan State is back in action as it hosts New Orleans Saturday afternoon. This is the last game before MSU begins conference play on Dec. 31. This is the first ever meeting between the Spartans and the Privateers.

1. Double-Double Trouble

Three different Spartans have collected a total of 10 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, and Gary Harris posted one in the season opener (vs. McNeese State 20 pts., 10 reb.). Dawson ranks second in the Big Ten, while Payne is tied for third.

2. Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 19.0 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking second the nation. With 209 assists on 330 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 63.3 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7) (NCAA stats through Dec. 22). Keith Appling is third in the conference in assists (4.7 apg) and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4). Five Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (3.6 apg), Gary Harris (3.0 apg), Travis Trice (2.5 apg), and Branden Dawson (2.5 apg) join Appling.

3. Breslin Advantage
Michigan State is 332-47 (.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 258-32 (.890) at Breslin, including a 130-22 (.855) conference record. MSU has won 39 of the last 42 games at Breslin. The Spartans have won 74 of the last 76 non-conference home games.

4. 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 11.5 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12.

5. Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .486. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in six 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.

Series History

This is the first-ever meeting betwen Michigan State and New Orleans. The Spartans are 7-0 against current members of the Southland Conference, going 3-0 against both Lamar and Nicholls State, and defeating McNeese State in the 2013-14 season opener.

Coach Slessinger
Mark Slessinger (Aurora, '95) is 28-37 overall in his third season as a Division I collegiate head coach. His coaching career also includes stints as an assistant coach at Aurora University, Central Michigan, and Northwestern State, as well as a two-year stint as head coach at Northland Pioneer Community College.

Privateer Notes
Ten different Privateers have started at least one game this season ... New Orleans played at Minnesota earlier this season, falling to the Gophers, 80-65 ... In its last game (Dec. 16), UNO won at UTEP, 71-69 ... New Orleans averages 8.3 steals per game ... UNO averages 23.4 free throw attempts per contest ... Thirteen different Privateers have connected on a 3-pointer this season.

Playing its first true road game of the season, Michigan State got off to a slow start as Texas took an early 11-4 lead. MSU fought back to take a brief lead, but with 5:14 left in the half, UT held a 28-21 lead. A late spurt by the Spartans allowed the Longhorns to take just a 38-36 lead into the half. The second half featured seven lead changes, all of them in the first 10 minutes of the stanza. Four straight points from Jonathan Holmes had reclaimed the UT lead at 54-52 with 10:57 remaining. MSU answered with a 14-2 run over the next 3:31 to take a commanding 66-56 lead. During that stretch, MSU scored on six of seven possessions, while holding UT to 0-of-3 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 shooting from the foul line and one turnover. The Spartan lead never dipped below eight points after that, as MSU scored on 20 of its final 23 possessions.

* Adreian Payne scored a career-high 33 points, knocking down 10-of-13 field goals, including 8-of-8 from 2-point range. His 10 field goals matched a career high, while establishing career best in free throws made (11) and attempted (12).
* Payne's 33 points were the most by a Spartan since Draymond Green scored 34 points in a win at Gonzaga on Dec. 10, 2011.
* Denzel Valentine grabbed a career-best 11 rebounds.
* After missing three of the last four games with an ankle injury, Gary Harris returned to action, scoring 19 points and dishing out five assists in 29 minutes.
* After being out-rebounded, 20-18, in the first half, MSU held a 25-13 advantage on the glass in the second half. The Spartans were out-scored 8-0 in second-chance points in the first half, but held an 8-4 edge in the second half.
* MSU was the first Longhorn opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field.
* Michigan State's 92 points were the most it had scored in a true road game since scoring 98 at Wisconsin-Green Bay on Dec. 21, 2005.

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 31 games, he is 32-of-76 (.421), averaging one made 3-pointer per contest. On eight occasions, including five times this season, he's made more than one in a game.

Outside Shooting
Michigan State is shooting .367 from 3-point range (81-of-221), ranking fourth in the Big Ten. Four Spartans (Keith Appling-17, Gary Harris-17, Adreian Payne-16, Travis Trice-16) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Payne ranks second in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.457), while Trice ranks fifth (.432) and Appling ranks ninth (.425). 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.

20-Point Spartans
Three different Spartans have scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Keith Appling (27 vs. Oklahoma, 25 vs. Portland, 22 vs. Kentucky, 21 vs. Oakland) and Adreian Payne (29 vs. Virginia Tech, 26 vs. Columbia, 20 vs. Oakland, 33 vs. Texas) lead the way with four 20-point efforts, while Gary Harris (21 vs. Oklahoma, 20 vs. McNeese State, 20 vs. Kentucky) has three.

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 11 games, MSU is averaging 82.1 points per game, ranking third in the Big Ten, including 17.5 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.

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." Valentine ranks sixth on the team in scoring (7.2 ppg) and minutes (25.9 mpg), while Trice ranks fifth in scoring (7.6 ppg) and sixth in minutes (21.5 mpg). Valentine (3.6 apg) is second in assist average, while Trice (2.5 apg) is fifth.

Spartans At The Charity Stripe
Michigan State is shooting .701 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Payne-52 attempts, .827, Appling-48 attempts, .729; Harris-39 attempts, .897) are each shooting better than 72 percent from the foul line. In fact, the three are shooting a combined .813 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, and one of 15 players on the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Payne leads the team in scoring (18.1 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding (8.0 rpg). He's posted a double-double in four games this season and 10 of the last 22 dating back to last season. Against Texas, he scored a career-high 33 points. He ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in rebounding. He's captured Big Ten Player of the Week honors twice this season (Nov. 18 and Dec. 23).

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 4.7 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. 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.

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 11 opponents are shooting .383 from the floor, including .305 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 eight of 11 games, and 10.3 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 (.595)

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 ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in three of his eight games. He missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland and North Florida) while resting an injured ankle, but returned to action against Texas, scoring 19 points in 29 minutes.

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.

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 484 of 628 opponents (.771), posting a 384-100 (.793) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +4.8 rebounding margin, and has been out-rebounded in four of 11 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), Kentucky (18/18), North Carolina (19/19), Iowa (22/23).

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 1,282 career points, he ranks 25th in MSU career scoring, 14 points behind Matt Steigenga (1,275 points) and 32 behind Durrell Summers (1,314 points). With 922 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 games, but redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling are also in contention for the spot. The trio is averaging a combined 7.4 points and 7.2 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. Five conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan State, No. 6 Wisconsin, and No. 23 Iowa. 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 449-179 (.715), 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 (.715), 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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