Evanston, IL – The sixth-ranked Michigan State Spartans take aim at their 16th straight victory as they pull into Evanston, Illinois for this afternoon's Big Ten Conference clash with the Northwestern Wildcats.
Since dropping games to ACC powers North Carolina and Duke to open the season, the Spartans have reeled off 15 consecutive wins, the most recent of which being a 95-61 shellacking of visiting Iowa on Tuesday night. That win improved coach Tom Izzo's club to 4-0 in conference, and MSU puts its perfect 4-0 road record on the line today against a Northwestern team that has won seven of its nine home bouts thus far.
Speaking of the Wildcats, they have a favorable overall record at 11-5, but things haven't gone according to plan since the start of Big Ten play with the team losing three of its first four conference bouts. A 66-64 overtime loss at nationally-ranked Michigan was the latest, and NU has now lost back-to-back games and four of its last five overall.
Michigan State has dominated the all-time series with Northwestern, 81-37, and the Spartans have won each of the last seven meetings, 16 of the last 17, 23 of the last 25, and 43 of the last 46 overall.
Michigan State is getting it done at both ends of the court this season, averaging 76.8 ppg while giving up a paltry 59.6 ppg. The team boasts three double-digit scorers, as Draymond Green (15.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Keith Appling (12.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Brandon Wood (10.1 ppg) have all performed at or above expectations to this point. As they have for nearly every year in coach Izzo's lengthy tenure, the Spartans control the boards with relative ease as they grab 40.8 rpg compared to 30.9 rpg for the opposition. They are shooting 48 percent from the field, while limiting the enemy to just 37.3 percent. Green logged a double-double consisting of 22 points and 10 rebounds in MSU's recent win over Iowa, and he was joined in double figures in the scoring column by four others, including Appling who finished with 15 points and nine assists. As a team, the Spartans made good on a sizzling 61.7 percent of their total shots, dropping 10-of-18 three-point tries along the way. Conversely, the Hawkeyes shot just 36.5 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers.
Northwestern hasn't enjoyed the same level of success its counterpart today has, but the Wildcats are well coached and feature two players who rank among the best the Big Ten has to offer. John Shurna and Drew Crawford average a combined 36.3 ppg, which is a little more than half of what the team puts up on a nightly basis (70.5 ppg). They are both shooting better than 42 percent from beyond the arc, and they combine for more than 11 rpg as well. Shurna poured in 21 points and Crawford went for 20 in the overtime loss at Michigan earlier this week. They grabbed six rebounds apiece, but combined for seven of the team's 16 turnovers. NU lost the game despite shooting 50 percent from the field and UM shooting a mere 33.3 percent. The Wolverines scored 13 second- chance points to none for the Wildcats, and the home team was guilty of only seven giveaways on the night.