Michigan State Faces New League Foe Nebraska
 
 
 
The Spartans close out 2011 on the road at Nebraska on Saturday.
 
The Spartans close out 2011 on the road at Nebraska on Saturday.
 
 

Dec. 30, 2011


Michigan State (12-2, 1-0) vs. Nebraska (8-4, 0-1)
 Date Saturday, Dec. 31
 Time 3 p.m. ET
 Location Lincoln, Neb. | Bob Devaney Sport Center
 Television BTN (Gus Johnson, Keno Davis)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Tickets Available at Huskers.com.
 Game Notes Michigan State | Nebraska
 Statistics  Michigan State | Nebraska
 Internet Coverage   Live Stats
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

The Opening Tip
After handing Indiana its first loss of the season in the conference opener, Michigan State travels to Nebraska for the first meeting between the Spartans and Huskers as Big Ten opponents. The two teams met six times between 1988 and 1994, but haven't played since then. MSU is looking to start Big Ten play with a 2-0 mark for the fifth straight season.

The Starting Five
1. Winning Streak

Michigan State enters Big Ten play riding a 12-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 a 12-game streak to open the 2000-01 season. The last time MSU had a win streak longer than 12 games in one season was 1998-99 when it recorded 22 straight victories. During the current streak, MSU is averaging 79.7 points and shooting .498 from the field, while holding opponents to 58.0 points on .367 shooting. Ten of the 12 victories have been by double figures.

2. Looking For Perfect Month
The Spartans are looking to finish December with a perfect 8-0 record. A win over Nebraska would give MSU its first undefeated December since 2007 (7-0), and its first undefeated month since January 2010 (9-0). A win would also be the fifth straight year the Spartans have opened Big Ten play with a 2-0 mark, and the ninth time in 17 seasons under Tom Izzo.

3. Appling Locks Them Up
Besides everything Keith Appling provides on the offensive end of the floor, leading the team in assists and ranking second in scoring, he is perhaps even more impressive on the defensive end where he is emerging as one of the premier defenders in the league. Named MSU's Best Defensive Player as a freshman, Appling is terrific at running through screens and not allowing his man an open look. Consider two of his more recent efforts. UMKC's Reggie Chaimberlain entered the game averaging 19.0 points, but was limited to 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting. IU's Jordan Hulls was held to 4 points on 2-of-10 shooting, after entering the contest averaging 12.1 points.

4. Big Ten Success
Michigan State has won 12 Big Ten Championships, including two of the last three, 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 542-445 (.549) in league play, including 184-85 (.684) under Tom Izzo, who ranks sixth in league history with 184 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to six of its 12 league crowns. Since Izzo's first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 184-85, 15 games better than second place Wisconsin (169-100).

5. Spartans Shooting Better
Michigan State got off to a slow start in terms of field-goal percentage this season, shooting .306 from the field against North Carolina outdoors on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Over the first six games of the season, MSU shot .423 from the field and .238 from 3-point range. In the last eight games, however, MSU has shown dramatic improvement, hitting .516 from the field and .441 from 3-point range. The Spartans have shot over 50 percent in five of the last seven games, including two contests better than 61 percent.

MSU vs. Nebraska Notes
Series History

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 8-6. The Huskers, however, own a 5-2 advantage in games played in Lincoln. The two teams met six times between 1988 and 1994, but have not met since then. This is the first game between the Spartans and Huskers as Big Ten foes.

Coach Sadler
Doc Sadler (Arkansas, '82) is 145-93 in his 8th season as a Division I head coach, including 97-75 in his sixth season at Nebraska. He was also head coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith from 1998-2003, winning NJCAA Region II Coach of the Year honors in 2001 and 2002. Under his guidance, Nebraska led the Big 12 and ranked in the Top 25 nationally in scoring defense three times in the last four years.

The Last Meeting
Nebraska defeated Michigan State, 96-91, in overtime on Dec. 10, 1994, in Lincoln. Nebraska led, 42-33, at the half, but the Spartans scored 47 points in the second half to force the extra period. Spartan All-American Shawn Respert led all scorers with 37 points, but hit just 9-of-26 shots. Respert also dished out seven assists. Jamie Feick added 14 points for MSU. Jaron Boone paced the Huskers with 23 points, while Erick Strickland nearly recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Cornhusker Notes
Nebraska leads the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (.764) ... The Huskers were 3-3 against ranked teams last season, including a home win over No. 3 Texas. Six of Nebraska's first eight Big Ten games are against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 ... Senior Bo Spencer sat out last season after transferring from LSU, and currently leads Nebraska in scoring (15.1), scoring 20 or more points in four games. He entered the week as one of only two Big Ten players averaging at least 15 points and four assists.

Gm. 14 Recap
Michigan St. 80 - Indiana 65

The two hottest teams in the Big Ten met in East Lansing to open conference play. The Spartans got off to a quick start, taking a 19-8 lead less than nine minutes into the game. Indiana scored six straight points, but a 15-2 Spartan run, including 3-pointers from Brandon Wood, Draymond Green and Keith Appling, gave Michigan State a seemingly commanding 34-16 lead with 5:11 left in the first half. Indiana immediately answered, however, with back-to-back 3-pointers from Matt Roth and then one from Christian Watford to cut the lead in half. Two more IU baskets pulled the Hoosiers within five before Keith Appling scored the half's final two points on a fast-break layup.

The Hoosier momentum carried over to the second half, as Indiana scored the first 11 points, silencing the Breslin Center crowd. MSU pulled even at 43 after an Appling 3-pointer, but IU used an 11-2 burst, capped by a Watford 3-pointer to take a 54-45 lead with 11:07 remaining. Over a stretch of 14:54, IU outscored MSU 38-11. The Spartans made one final push, using two Appling three-point plays and an Austin Thornton jumper to pull within a single point. Back-to-back baskets by Adriean Payne and a breakaway dunk from Brandon Wood gave the Spartans the lead back by the next media timeout. By the 5:11 mark, a 20-0 MSU run gave the Spartans a commanding 65-54 advantage, as IU never got closer than eight points after that.

MSU vs. Indiana Notes
* MSU's defense held Cody Zeller (15.1 ppg) and Jordan Hulls (12.1 ppg) to four points each on a combined 4-of-15 shooting.
* Keith Appling scored a career-high 25 points, adding seven assists and six rebounds.
* Michigan State recorded a season-low nine turnovers as the Spartans held a 23-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
* Derrick Nix tied a career high with 14 points, the most he's ever scored against a Big Ten opponent.
* The game featured three distinct runs as MSU opened with a 34-16 run through the first 14:49. IU responded with a 25-2 stretch over 10:11 of both halves. MSU regained control of the game with a 20-0 run over 5:56 late in the second half.
* This was the first time Michigan State opened conference play at home vs. Indiana since 1996, Tom Izzo's first season as head coach.
* Tom Izzo improved to 11-6 in Big Ten openers and 15-2 in Big Ten home openers, including 10 straight wins.

MSU Basketball Notes
Strong Spartan Defense

Michigan State's defensive effort has been impressive in the first two months of the season. The Spartans are allowing just 59.8 points (ranking 31st in the nation through Dec. 18) on .377 shooting (16th in nation), including .300 from 3-point range (50th in nation). MSU also ranks 51st in the nation in steals (8.6 spg). Those numbers are especially impressive when you consider MSU's early schedule (Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Gonzaga). The Spartans rank third in the Big Ten in scoring defense, second in field-goal percentage defense and second in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. During MSU's 12-game win streak, the Spartans are allowing just 58.0 points on .367 shooting, including .284 from 3-point range.

Coming Of Age
It took some time, but freshman Branden Dawson is showing signs of the game that earned him McDonald's All-America honors last season. Over the last four games he's averaging 12.5 points, including a season-high 16 vs. UMKC, shooting .618 from the field and ranking second on the team with 5.0 boards per contest. On the season, Dawson is averaging 8.7 points and 4.6 rebounds, ranking fourth in scoring and second in rebounding. He scored in double figures in 3 of the season's first 10 games, but has scored 13 or more in three of the last four.

Wood Heating Up
Brandon Wood has hit his stride in the last four games. Not only is the senior transfer from Valparaiso averaging 13.3 points, he's adding 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.0 turnovers, while shooting .618 from the field (21-of-34), including .533 from 3-point range (8-of-15). He scored in double figures in just one of his first six games this season, but has done it five times in the last eight contests, including a season-high 20 points vs. Nebraska Omaha.

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 13 of 14 opponents by a +10.2 margin, including five by 15 or more, leading the Big Ten and ranking seventh in the nation (through Dec. 18). 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 429 of 558 opponents (.769), posting a 339-90 (.790) mark in those games.

Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State ranks 17th in the nation in assists with 17.2 assists per game (NCAA ranking through Dec. 18). The Spartans have recorded an assist on 62.1 percent of their baskets. Over the last seven games, the Spartans are averaging 21.3 assists and have recorded an assist on 67.4 percent of their baskets. Individually, Keith Appling is averaging 5.3 assists and Draymond Green is averaging 4.3 assists in the last seven contests.

Consistent Starting Lineup
Michigan State has used the same starting lineup (Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Draymond Green, Adreian Payne, Brandon Wood) for 12 of its 14 games. The only changes came against Eastern Michigan when Derrick Nix started in place of Payne, and vs. Lehigh when Austin Thornton started in place of Green.

Becoming A Point Guard
Keith Appling has been asked to make the transition from the wing to point guard for Michigan State this season. As the season progresses, Appling seems more at home in his new position. While he did not have an assist in the first two games of the season, he's averaging 4.3 assists in his last 12 games with a 2.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He 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). He's averaging 5.3 assists in the last seven games, including a career-best 8 vs. UMKC, and seven or more assists in four of the last seven games. He owns a 3.1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last seven contests.

Defending The Three
Last season, Michigan State ranked eighth in the Big Ten, allowing teams to shoot .364 from 3-point range. This year, the Spartans rank second in the conference, allowing opponents to shoot just .300 from behind the arc. MSU has held five opponents to a .250 or lower shooting percentage from behind the arc. That happened just four times all of last season.

Three-Headed Scoring Attack
Three Spartans have emerged as Michigan State's leading scorers, as Draymond Green (15.1 ppg), Keith Appling (12.1 ppg) and Brandon Wood (10.5 ppg) are all averaging double figures. It's been more pronounced over the last eight games as the trio is averaging a combined 42.3 points (Green-17.0, Appling-13.3, Wood-12.0). As a group, they outscored Florida State, 56-49.

Second-Chance Points
Michigan State is outscoring opponents 201-125 in second chance points for the season. That's an average of +5.5 per game (14.4-8.9). The Spartans are averaging 13.6 offensive rebounds per game, ranking second in the Big Ten. MSU has 190 offensive rebounds on the year compared to 292 defensive rebounds for its opponents, good for an offensive rebound percentage of .394, ranking first in the conference. The Spartans have grabbed 20 or more offensive rebounds three times this season.

What A Difference A Year Makes
Through the first 14 games of the season, Derrick Nix is averaging 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 17.9 minutes per contest. That's a contrast to last season when Nix averaged just 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds for the season. Nix has even elevated his play in the last few weeks, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in the last seven games. In the first 73 games of his career, Nix scored in double figures just three times; he's done it four times in the last seven contests.

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 eight games, however, the Spartans have shown signs of breaking out of their slump, connecting on .441 of their shots (52-118) from behind the arc.

Guard Rebounding
One of the reasons that MSU is able to rank among the nation's leaders in rebounding margin is that its guards have been strong on the glass. The Spartans' starting backcourt of Keith Appling (3.6 rpg), Brandon Wood (2.9 rpg) and Branden Dawson (4.6 rpg) averages 11.1 boards per contest.

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 39.2 percent of the scoring and 42.4 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 837 career rebounds, Draymond Green ranks seventh in MSU history, 50 behind Goran Suton (887) in sixth 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 (9.6 rpg) would need to average 9.03 rebounds this season to reach 1,000 for his career. This season, Green leads the Big Ten in rebounding.

Balanced Scoring
Six different Spartans have led Michigan State in scoring this season. Draymond Green (five times), Keith Appling (four times), Branden Dawson (twice), Brandon Wood (twice), Austin Thornton and Travis Trice have each paced MSU. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne 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. MSU is committing 14.1 per game (although just 12.0 in the last eight games), while forcing 15.4 by its opponents. The Spartans are averaging 17.0 points per game off opponent turnovers, compared to 12.4 points by opponents off MSU turnovers. The Spartans are 8-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent, but 3-2 when they have more (1-0 when turnovers are equal).

Spartan Double-Doubles
Four different Spartans have recorded a double-double this season. Draymond Green leads the way with seven double-doubles in the season's first 13 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 37.4-23.4, out-scoring 12 of its 14 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 .723 over the last nine games. For the season, MSU is shooting .688 from the foul line, averaging 23.6 attempts per game.

Green's Weekly Honors
One week after Keith Appling was named Big Ten Player of the Week, Draymond Green earned the honor on Dec. 12, sharing it with Indiana's Christian Watford. Green earned the honor on the strength of his career-high 34-point effort in MSU's win at Gonzaga. For the week, he averaged 24.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He was also named National Player of the Week by ESPN.com's Andy Katz and ESPN's Dick Vitale.

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 1,128 points, he ranks 35th in MSU history, needing 19 to move past Pete Gent (1,146 points).

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season (including 2011-12 - through Dec. 28), the year of Michigan State's first of 14 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 150 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 14 games for MSU, ranking third on the team in scoring at 10.5 ppg.

In The Rankings
Six different Spartan opponents are ranked in at least one of the two polls, including Ohio State (2 AP/2 USA Today), North Carolina (5/6), Duke (7/5), Wisconsin (11/11), Indiana (13/15) and Michigan (18/16). MSU is ranked No. 16 by the AP and No. 17 by ESPN/USA Today.

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 395-163 (.708), and 184-85 (.684) 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 .684 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 (.716), former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700) and former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.731), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Lambert (.709) and Izzo (.708). With 184 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.