The Bowling Green Falcons will try once 12 season, but doing so ranked Michigan State at the Breslin Center in East Lansing tonight certainly won't be easy.
Bowling Green is a game over .500 on the year (5-4), and the team has lost two of its last three and three of its last five overall. The most recent outing took place one week ago at Valparaiso and resulted in an 82-79 setback. If they are unable to register a win this evening, the Falcons will have additional chances to claim that initial road victory as this is the second installment in a five-game road trip -- with stops at FIU, Duquesne and Texas- San Antonio to come over the next two weeks.
Michigan State had the unenviable task of opening the season against perennial national title contenders in North Carolina and Duke, and coach Tom Izzo's club lost them both. Since then, however, the Spartans have reeled off eight straight victories, the most recent of which was a 74-67 decision at No. 23 Gonzaga last Saturday. MSU is 6-0 at home this season, and the team kicks off a four-game homestand tonight, the last of which will be against Indiana in the Big Ten Conference opener on December 28.
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Bowling Green, 9-3, and the Spartans have won the last three meetings. MSU blasted BGSU in East Lansing last year, 74-39.
Bowling Green isn't an explosive offensive team (67.6 ppg), but that's not to say coach Louis Orr's club is totally devoid of talent. Case is point, forward A'uston Calhoun (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), who averaged 22.5 points in the last two games and has scored in double figures in each of the last four games. Scott Thomas (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is the only other double-digit scorer at the moment, although Jordon Crawford (9.8 ppg) and Dee Brown (9.6 ppg) are close to joining the ranks for a team that shoots 45.5 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three-point range. Defensively, BGSU is yielding 63.4 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 44.0 percent overall and only 30.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Falcons came into the week ranked 23rd in the country in turnover margin (+4.6), but they are nearly even in rebounding margin (-0.2). In addition to Calhoun's 25-point effort in the recent loss to Valpo, Crawford poured in 22 points and the two combined for 12 of the team's 16 assists. BGSU shot 53.6 percent from the field, while the Crusaders hit 52.2 percent and claimed a 26-17 edge in points from the foul line.
Michigan State's strength clearly lies in its ability to curtail the opposition's exploits at the offensive end, as the Spartans are giving up just 57.7 ppg while logging a +11 rebounding margin and coming up with just over 16 turnovers per outing. Offensively, MSU is putting up 74.7 ppg behind 46.6 percent field goal efficiency, which includes a 31.6 percent showing from three-point range. Coach Izzo's team features just two double-digit scorers in Draymond Green (16.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.0 apg) and Keith Appling (11.6 ppg, 3.0 apg), relying more on a balanced attack to keep their enemies at bay. Green was a man possessed in the recent win at Gonzaga, hitting 11-of-13 field goal attempts, including four three-pointers, in finishing with 34 points. No other Spartan scored more than nine points (Adreian Payne), but the team as a whole nailed 54.2 percent of its total shots while limiting the Bulldogs to 43.2 percent and goading them into 20 turnovers.