East Lansing, MI – The 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans will try to bounce back from a loss earlier in the week when they host the Nicholls State Colonels at the Breslin Center on Saturday afternoon.
Nicholls has been quiet through the first three weeks of the season having played just three games, losing at Vanderbilt (80-65) and Missouri (74-54), and winning at home versus New Orleans (92-79). The Colonels won't return home until Jan. 3, 2013, when they kick off Southland Conference play.
After falling to UConn in the season opener in Germany, 66-62, Michigan State was able to reel off five straight wins, highlighted by a neutral-court victory over nationally-ranked Kansas, 67-64. The Spartans encountered a stumbling block in their first true road game however, losing at Miami-Florida on Wednesday night, 67-59.
Michigan State has won both previous meetings in the series with Nicholls by margins of 50 points or greater.
Nicholls struggled in its first two matchups against superior competition, but it showed its last time out that it can do some serious damage against teams more on its level. Against New Orleans, the Colonels drained greater than 60 percent of their field goal attempts, including 6-of-12 from three-point range, and they added a solid night from the foul line as well (28-of-37) on their way to a season-high 92 points. Pacing five players in double figures was Fred Hunter, who netted 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. The senior guard has been the team's go-to guy on the young season as he puts up 21.7 ppg on a lofty 62.2 percent field goal shooting. He also rips down a team-best 6.7 rpg. JaMarkus Horace also had a stellar shooting night (7-of-11) en route to 17 points. Shane Rilleux tallied 13 points and five assists while T.J. Carpenter and Sam McBeath scored 11 apiece. Carpenter and McBeath each put up 12.0 ppg and have combined to make 10 of the team's 18 three-pointers through three games.
Michigan State shoots a solid 46.5 percent from the field while sporting a field goal percentage defense of 38.6 percent, but the script was flipped in the loss to Miami, as it shot just 40.7 percent from the floor while the 'Canes made nearly 48 percent of their attempts. The Spartans didn't help themselves much at the foul line either, going 5-of-11. Keith Appling was one of the few players who put together worthwhile performances, scoring 15 points while adding five rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Gary Harris returned sooner than expected from a shoulder injury, logging 12 points and eight boards in 25 minutes off the bench. Appling has taken the torch as team-leader this season, scoring 16.6 ppg on 47 percent from the floor (including 11-of-26 from three-point range) while adding a team-best 4.1 apg. Harris has seen action in five games, scoring 12.0 ppg in those contests, and Branden Dawson (11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) has been the team's best asset in the low block. Adreian Payne (7.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Derrick Nix (7.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) fill out MSU's strong and deep frontcourt, who have helped it log nearly a plus-10.0 rebounding margin.