The Miami-Florida Hurricanes play host to the 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans on Wednesday night as part of this year's version of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Michigan State began the season with the Armed Forces Classic in Germany, and it lost to UConn, 66-62. Since then however, the Spartans have lived up to their national ranking with five straight wins, highlighted by a 67-64 victory over Kansas. They experienced a scare the last time out at home against Louisiana, but managed to escape with a 63-60 win.
Miami will be trying for a perfect three-game homestand on Wednesday night after claiming wins against Jacksonville (73-57) and Detroit (77-62). The Hurricanes also won at home against Stetson on opening night (87-79), leaving them with an unbeaten mark at BankUnited Center.
This bout marks the initial meeting between Michigan State and Miami in men's basketball.
In typical Michigan State fashion, it has started the season by playing solid, fundamental basketball at both ends of the court. Not only is the team shooting 47.6 percent from the field, but it's limiting the opposition to just 37.3 percent, while outscoring those same foes by nearly nine points per game. Things were a little tighter against Louisiana, as the Spartans shot just 42.6 percent from the field and saw their double-digit advantage shrink down to do just two in the final minute of the game, but they managed to hold on without surrendering the lead. Keith Appling had a sub par night shooting (4-of-11), but he made 10-of-12 attempts at the free throw line en route to 19 points while adding five assists, two blocks and two steals. The junior guard is undoubtedly the team's catalyst as he scores 16.8 ppg while also recording team-bests in assists (4.2 apg), steals (2.0 spg), three-point baskets (10), and three-point percentage (.435). Gary Harris (12.0 ppg) is the Spartans' next-leading scorer, but he is expected to miss another one-to-two weeks with a shoulder injury. Branden Dawson (11.3 ppg), Derrick Nix (8.0 ppg), and Adreian Payne (7.8 ppg) are all assets in the rebounding battle with each grabbing at least 6.5 rpg.
Miami has also gotten off to a fast start shooting the ball, draining more than 47 percent of its field goal attempts, and it received a huge boost in the last game with the return of one of its star players. After missing the first four games due to suspension, Durand Scott made his season debut against Detroit and tallied 15 points on 6-of-9 from the field. Scott, a senior who has averaged at least 10.3 ppg every season, will be key if the Hurricanes want to make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth. Also scoring in double figures in the win was Shane Larkin with 15 points, Trey McKinney Jones had 13, and Kenny Kadji logged a double-double consisting of 14 points and 11 rebounds. The balanced scoring effort was no accident, as five players average at least 11.5 ppg for the 'Canes, paced by Shane Larkin with 17.3 ppg on greater than 58 percent shooting. Reggie Johnson (11.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Kadji (11.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) are crucial components in the paint, while McKinney Jones (11.5 ppg) has knocked down all 12 of his free throw attempts so far.