The 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans will attempt to stay unbeaten at the Breslin Center this season, as they play host to the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions on Wednesday night.
It has been a rough start to the 2012-13 campaign for UAPB, with its only win in seven tries coming against Maryland-Eastern Shore in its final game at the Outrigger Hotels and Resort Rainbow Classic in Hawaii (62-52). Since that win, the Lions have dropped four in a row, all on the road, most recently in an 80-59 decision against Oregon.
Michigan State lost its opener to UConn in Germany (66-62), but it was able to reel off five consecutive wins before traveling to Miami-Florida and suffering a 67-59 defeat on Nov. 28. The Spartans got back on the winning track in their latest bout against Nicholls State with a dominating 84-39 victory.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
It has been a sluggish start for UAPB to say the least, as it shoots a lowly 35.5 percent from the floor in netting a meager 54 ppg. The team showed great improvement against Oregon last Saturday, making 23-of-51 shots from the field (.451), but it still produced just 59 points in the blowout loss. Mitchell Anderson tallied 16 points, two blocks, and two assists in the setback, while DeVon Haynes scored 12 points and Lazabian Jackson chipped in with 10. Jackson has been the Lions' most productive player with 12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, and 1.7 spg, but he has struggled from beyond the arc, making good on fewer than 20 percent of his three-point attempts. Terrell Kennedy adds 11.4 ppg, but he too struggles from the field (.333). Haynes (11.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Anderson (8.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg) bring stability to the frontcourt.
The Spartans were outstanding in their recent win over Nicholls State, shooting a season-high 60 percent from the field while allowing a season-low 39 points. Eleven players scored in the victory, paced by Keith Appling with 13 points and six assists. Adreian Payne saw significant minutes off the bench and responded with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, and Denzel Valentine and Gary Harris tacked on 11 points apiece. The outstanding team effort only added to a stellar start to the season at the offensive end for MSU, which shooter better than 48 percent from the floor. Appling has been fantastic with 16.1 ppg while handing out 4.4 apg. The junior guard makes nearly 43 percent of his three-point attempts and has also been impressive from the foul line (.816). Harris (11.8 ppg) is a high-efficiency guard (.509 FG percentage) and Branden Dawson adds 10.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and a team-best 2.4 spg. In addition to a sound offensive attack, Michigan State plays solid defense (57.4 ppg), and it outrebounds opponents by more than 10 boards per contest.