The top team in the Big Ten Conference hits the road on Tuesday night, as the 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans head to Madison where they will encounter the Wisconsin Badgers.
One of five teams from the league ranked in the Top-25 this week, the Spartans jumped five spots up from last week as Tom Izzo's bunch took care of Penn State on the road, 81-72, on Jan. 16, and then tackled a pesky Ohio State group three days later, 59-56, in order to remain perfect at home after 12 dates. The latest win also pushed MSU to 5-1 in conference, which has the team sitting in front of Michigan, Indiana and the Badgers who are all tied for second place at 4-1.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin is the one team among the top six in the league standings that is not nationally ranked this week. Part of that is due to being downed by Iowa on Saturday, 70-66, on the road. The defeat halted the squad's seven- game win streak and of its five setbacks thus far, three have come against ranked foes.
The Spartans lead the all-time series with Wisconsin by a count of 72-60, but in road dates MSU trails by a 43-23 margin. The most recent meeting between the squads took place last March in Indianapolis during the semifinals of the conference tournament where Michigan State delivered a 65-52 victory, the third straight for the team over the Badgers.
The home team has captured wins in 13 of the last 14 clashes played on a college campus.
Credited with his team's final six points of the contest, Keith Appling was the key contributor for the Spartans as they slipped by 11th-ranked Ohio State in the 600th game coached by Izzo in his career. Appling finished with 15 points, although he shot just 1-of-5 behind the 3-point line and was responsible for four turnovers along the way. Adreian Payne responded with 14 points and Branden Dawson came up a point shy of a double-double as he logged 10 rebounds in the decision. Over the course of 19 games this season, Appling is leading a trio of double-digit scorers with his 13.8 ppg, adding 84 assists as well which is far and away the most on the team and yet the Spartans have just as many dishes (272) as they do turnovers heading into action on Tuesday night. Payne, who is playing just over 20 minutes per game and has come off the bench most nights, leads the team on the glass with 7.1 rpg and that has elevated MSU to 38.8 rpg, which is eight more than the competition.
Through the first seven minutes of action in Iowa over the weekend, the Badgers had a total of just four points, en route to a mere 23.1 percent shooting from the floor in the first half. The team picked it up after the break, converting 59.4 percent, including 7-of-12 beyond the arc, but it just wasn't enough as the Hawkeyes captured the four-point win. Wisconsin didn't have a single starter score in double figures, instead it was George Marshall who led the way with 20 points, followed by Sam Dekker with 13 which means the pair outscored the starters by two. Jared Berggren, who tallied eight points and cleared five rebounds versus Iowa, leads the team in scoring entering the week with 12.7 ppg, followed by Ryan Evans (11.2 ppg) and Ben Brust (10.7 ppg). As with many Big Ten programs, the Badgers focus much of their efforts at the defensive end where they have limited foes to 55.8 ppg.