East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Facing their third opponent from the Big Ten Conference this season, the Ospreys of North Florida have flown north to challenge the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night.
North Florida currently sits a game below .500 at 5-6, and the team has played the majority of its games on the road (seven of 11). In fact, the Osrpeys have logged more than 8,500 miles already, and this is the third straight road game for UNF, all against major conference foes. This is also the second of back- to-back outings versus a team from the Big Ten. The squad was last in action 10 days ago, as it dropped an 89-68 decision at Indiana. The Osrpeys do however, have the luxury of playing their next three at home, the second of which (vs. Kennesaw State) marks the opening of Atlantic Sun Conference play.
Michigan State is ranked fifth in the AP poll for the second straight week after falling from the top spot following its lone setback of the season against North Carolina on Dec. 4. The Spartans didn't look all that great in their first game following the loss, but managed to get back on track as they slipped past Oakland this past Saturday. This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood, and it is MSU's first home game in nearly two weeks. Following this clash, the Spartans play at Texas on Saturday, and they will open Big Ten play at Penn State on New Year's Eve.
North Florida is hitting 44.1 percent of its field goal attempts, including 36 percent of its 3-point tries, both of which help the team put up 72.6 ppg. Unfortunately, opponents are making good on 46.3 percent of their total shots, while taking advantage of more than 15 UNF turnovers per outing in netting 75.5 ppg. The Osrpeys have just two players scoring in double figures on a consistent basis, but the 11.8 and 11.6 ppg, respectively, turned in by Dallas Moore and Travis Wallace don't really cause an opposing coach to lie awake at night trying to figure out how to stop them. In all, eight players are producing at least 5.8 ppg, and Wallace leads the attack on the glass with 7.3 rpg.
Even though his team lost by 21 at Indiana last time out, Moore was a man possessed as he nailed four treys on his way to 27 points as the only UNF player to reach double figures. The Ospreys shot just 37.1 percent from the floor, while the Hoosiers knocked down 46.4 percent of their total shots. The visitors were guilty of 17 giveaways, and they were outrebounded (49-40) and outscored at the foul line (19-9) as well.
From an offensive standpoint, Michigan State gets significant production from a number of players, including Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, all of whom average at least 16.3 ppg. Branden Dawson is averaging a near double-double with 10.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while Payne also helps on the glass with 8.0 rpg. Appling serves as the team's primary playmaker with 5.1 apg, helping the Spartans lead the nation with 20.0 helpers per contest. As a team, MSU is shooting 48.1 percent from the field, which includes a 39.1 percent showing from 3-point range, and nets 81.4 ppg, while at the defensive end, holding the opposition to 67.8 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .391 overall and .318 from downtown. Add favorable margins in both rebounding (+4.0) and turnovers (+2.3), and it's easy to see why the Spartans are off to such a tremendous start.
Appling scored 21 points, while Payne (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Dawson (16 points, 13 rebounds) both had double-doubles, but 17 turnovers allowed a poor shooting Oakland team (.383) to hang around in what eventually wound up as a four-point win for the Spartans. A 41-32 advantage on the boards helped Michigan State, which actually trailed at the half (31-30).
Coach Tom Izzo's club shot just 35.9 percent from the floor, missing 17 of its 24 3-point attempts along the way, and turned the ball over 14 times in the loss to North Carolina.