Spartans and Ramblers square off in non-conference fray

The Loloya-Chicago Ramblers will need to pull off an upset to make it five wins in a row as they head to the Breslin Center to battle the 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans.

The Ramblers are coming off a 77-50 win over Furman which improved their record to 6-2. Loyola also downed Maryland-Eastern Shore, Northern Illinois, and Tennessee Tech during its current hot streak. The team's only losses came courtesy of Western Michigan (81-71) and the USF Bulls (68-50) in the South Florida Invitational. Coach Porter Moses, now in his ninth season with the school, has done a terrific job preparing his squad as his team has allowed only 55 ppg during its winning streak. The Ramblers are 11-2 in their last 13 games versus non-Horizon League opponents and have won five consecutive non- conference games in the month of December.

Tom Izzo's Spartans have looked much more familiar their last two times out after narrowly defeating Louisiana (63-60) and losing to Miami-Florida (67-59) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Michigan State responded to its second loss of the season by completing an 84-39 rout of Nicholls, which it followed up with a dominant 76-44 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday. The Spartans have held their last two opponents to .286 shooting, including .217 from 3-point range.The team is now 7-2 overall and a perfect 6-0 at home. In fact, Michigan State has won 67 of its last 68 non-conference home games, and 69 straight games against unranked non-conference opponents at the Breslin Center.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Loyola-Chicago, 8-2, including a 4-0 advantage in East Lansing. The Spartans and Ramblers have only met twice since 1940 and have not squared off since 2002.

Furman felt the wrath of Loyola's defensive effort as it managed to make only 35.8 percent of its field goal attempts and committed 20 turnovers in the contest. The Ramblers had no trouble finding the bottom of the net as they converted 47.6 percent from the field including 11-of-24 from 3-point range. Devon Turk scored a team-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor in 24 minutes of action off the bench. Jordan Hicks and Ben Averkamp scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, as both saw limited action due to their team's dominance on the scoreboard. Averkamp is fifth among the Horizon League's scoring leaders with 16.5 ppg.

The Spartans were impressive their last time out versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff. MSU held its opponent to only four makes on 26 field goal attempts in the first half while it converted 50 percent of its shots from the floor in the contest. Izzo's squad also held a 45-31 edge in the rebounding battle and forced 20 turnovers before the final buzzer sounded. Gary Harris scored a team-high 13 points as 14 different Spartans got their names in the box score. Junior guard Keith Appling is leading the team with 15.3 points and 4.8 assists per outing. Harris is second on the team with 12 ppg and Branden Dawson is tallying 10.8 per contest. Adrian Payne and Derrick Nix provide MSU with a pair of massive bodies in the middle to anchor the defense.