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Michigan State's Summers strives for consistency

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State's Durrell Summers plays like a first-round pick sometimes. At others, he looks destined for the NBA Development League.

Why that happens puzzles Spartans coach Tom Izzo, teammates, NBA scouts — and even Summers.

"I've been trying to figure out that myself," Summers acknowledged. "I'm just trying to get lost in the game and keep my mind focused."

The fifth-ranked Spartans (19-3, 9-0 Big Ten) hope Summers figures it out in time to help them win Tuesday night at No. 16 Wisconsin (16-5, 6-3).

Michigan State has lost only one of its last 13 conference games on the road, but it hasn't won on the Badgers' home court since 2001.

The Spartans' perfect start in the Big Ten has given them a three-game cushion over four teams, and they play three of them this week. After playing Wisconsin, they're at Illinois on Saturday and host Purdue next week.

"I can't think of a tougher, three-game stretch," Izzo said. "We could play awfully well and lose all three and all the sudden, it's a different story."

If Summers can perform like he did in the last two games, earning Big Ten player of the week honors, it will improve the Spartans' shot at extending the best Big Ten start in school history. The junior guard averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in a one-point victory at Michigan and a nine-point win against Northwestern.

He had a season-high 24 points against the Wildcats, who gave up alley-oop dunks to Summers to start each half and were no match for his ability to make 3-pointers in half-court sets and pull-up jumpers on the break.

"When he plays like that, he looks like a pro," teammate Chris Allen said. "If he keeps playing like that, I don't want to say it, but he won't be here next year."

Izzo laughed when that comment was relayed to him.

"I don't think the NBA goes on two or three games," Izzo said. "Durrell Summers is a pro-potential guy, we just got to make sure we help him do the things to reach his potential.

"When he focuses on the task at hand, I think he's one of the best players in this league and in the country. That seems far-fetched when he goes scoreless. But Durrell Summers could end up in a lot of ways like a Morris Peterson if the light goes on and he gets it."

Like Izzo, Summers got a chuckle out of Allen's praise.

"I'm not looking at that right now," Summers said. "But I do want to keep playing well — keep rebounding, scoring and defensively getting better — and hopefully we'll be cutting (the nets) down at the end."

Summers helped Michigan State advance to the Final Four last season for a nation-best fifth time in 11 years. He dunked over Connecticut's Stanley Robinson for two of his 10 points in the semifinals and had 13 points in a loss to North Carolina in the national championship.

Instead of building upon that success, Summers showed he still had a lot of growing up to do on and off the court.

He was held scoreless in 19 minutes against The Citadel and scoreless in 26 minutes against Wisconsin last month.

After being tardy to one too many classes, Summers said assistant Mark Montgomery put his schedule in his locker at the Breslin Center. It included reminders about not being late and a weekly academic check along and listed the names of the four-man coaching staff.

"Not to downplay what anybody does, but 98 percent of the time that Durrell is not having a good game it's more Durrell — or us — than the opponent," Izzo said. "I don't think people can take away Durrell as much as Durrell can take away Durrell. He is a very, very gifted kid who I think is starting to see things. If he does, it will make us a much better team."