Published January 25, 2012
| Sports Network
Minnesota is riding the wave of a three-game win streak, which comes on the heels of a dreadful run that saw the team suffer four straight losses to open Big Ten play. The Gophers' most recent win came in a 75-52 thrashing of Northwestern at home on Sunday, running the team's overall record to 15-5 and its Big Ten ledger to 3-4.
Michigan State put the brakes on a brief two-game slide by whipping Purdue in East Lansing last Saturday, 83-58. The Spartans improved to 16-4 on the season and 5-2 in conference to get back into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten. MSU is a perfect 12-0 at home in 2011-12, and the team has won its last 13 games at the Breslin Center dating back to last season. As mentioned, Izzo's next win will give him 400 for his career, making him just the fourth coach in Big Ten history to reach that milestone.
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Minnesota by a 61-57 margin, which includes a 38-19 edge in games played in East Lansing. The Spartans have won 10 of the last 11 meetings, 15 of the last 17, and 20 of the last 24 overall. They have won 12 straight over the Gophers at the Breslin Center.
Despite playing the majority of the season without leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Mbakwe (14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg), Minnesota is holding its own in the ultra-competitive Big Ten. The Gophers are averaging 70.2 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 48.1 percent overall and better than 70 percent from the foul line. They are also outworking the opposition on the glass (+3.7) while goading the same into more than 14 turnovers per outing. Rodney Williams (10.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Julian Welch (10.6 ppg, 2.6 apg) are the only two active double-digit scorers for coach Tubby Smith's club, but there are six guys who average at least 6.0 ppg. Defensively, UM allows an average of 62.8 ppg, with foes shooting just 41.0 percent from the field. All five starters scored in double figures, led by freshman Joe Coleman's 16-point effort, as Minnesota blew the doors off Northwestern the last time out, winning by 23. Welch finished with a line of 14 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Gophers, who shot a sizzling 57.7 percent from the floor, despite missing nine of their 12 three-point attempts. The Wildcats were limited to 32.7 percent field goal efficiency, and they lost the battle on the boards by a 40-28 margin.
Simply put, Michigan State is getting the job done at both ends of the court this season. The Spartans, who shoot 48.4 percent from the floor and knock down 37.6 percent of their three-point tries, average a robust 76.1 ppg, despite boasting just two double-digit scorers in Draymond Green (15.0 ppg, 10.2 rpg) and Keith Appling (12.6 ppg, team-high 79 assists). In Big Ten games alone, MSU leads the conference in both field goal percentage (.509) and three-point field goal percentage (.448). From a defensive standpoint, the Spartans control the opposition to the tune of 60.6 ppg on shooting efforts of only 38.0 percent overall and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. Add a +9.7 rebounding margin to the equation and it's no wonder the team is enjoying yet another highly successful campaign. Branden Dawson scored a game-high 14 points in the recent rout of Purdue, as Michigan State shot a blistering 60.0 percent from the floor, converting 7-of-13 three-point tries along the way. The Boilermakers were held to just 29.0 percent field goal efficiency, and they were a woeful 3-of-20 from beyond the arc. MSU outscored PU on the break, 18-0.