Lehigh (9-3) at (19) Michigan State (10-2)
Thursday, December 22nd, 9:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Breslin Center (14,759) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Lehigh 3-0, MSU 8-0. Away Record: Lehigh 4-3, MSU 2-0. Neutral Record: Lehigh 2-0, MSU 0-2. Conference Record: Lehigh 0-0, MSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans take aim at their 11th straight win as they entertain the Lehigh Mountain Hawks tonight at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Lehigh is enjoying a stellar start to the season as well, as the team has won nine of its first 12 games, including three in a row. The most recent triumph occurred at home over Arcadia 10 days ago, 95-55, and a win tonight would mark the first time since the 2005-06 campaign that the Mountain Hawks would claim victories in 10-of-11 games. Lehigh will play three more non-conference bouts following this one, and will start Patriot League play at Holy Cross on January 7.
Michigan State is riding the wave of a 10-game win streak, with all but one (Gonzaga) coming by double figures. The last time the Spartans won 11 in a row was during the 2008-09 season. MSU whipped visiting UMKC on Monday night, 89-54, running its 2011-12 home record to a perfect 8-0. This is Michigan State's final non-conference game, as after tonight it will turn its attention to undefeated Indiana in next week's Big Ten opener.
Since each team started the season 0-2, they have gone a combined 19-1. This game marks the first-ever meeting between Lehigh and Michigan State in men's basketball.
Lehigh has had an easy go of it for the most on offense this season, averaging 79.1 ppg on the strength of 45.4 percent overall field goal efficiency. The Mountain Hawks have a done a good job defensively as well, yielding 66.9 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 41.3 percent overall and just 28.7 percent from three-point range. Turnovers have played an integral role in the team's early success too, as it goads the opposition into nearly 15 miscues per affair. C.J. McCollum is one of three players netting double digits on a consistent basis for Lehigh, as he has used his 84.5 percent effort from the charity stripe to help score 18.8 ppg, and he adds 5.5 rpg, 39 assists and 30 steals to his impressive stat line. McCollum actually has more made free throws (71) than his closest teammate has attempts (44). Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner check in with 13.6 and 12.6 ppg, respectively, with the latter pacing the team's rebounding effort with 6.4 per tilt. The Mountain Hawks had very little trouble in their recent outing against visiting Arcadia, jumping out to a 44-13 lead and cruising to the 40-point victory. Freshman Stefan Cvrkalj led the way with a career-high 19 points off the bench, while Jordan Hamilton added 16 points and Greiner chipped in 15. Lehigh shot 54.7 percent from the floor, while Arcadia shot a dismal 29 percent, and missed 15 of its 17 three- point attempts.
Like their counterpart tonight, the Spartans boast three double-digit scorers in the form of Draymond Green (15.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Keith Appling (10.5 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Brandon Wood (10.5 ppg, .419 three-point FG percentage). The team as a whole is putting up 75.8 ppg on the strength of its 47.8 percent shooting effort, which includes a 34.2 percent showing from beyond the arc. Where Michigan State really excels however, is at the defensive end as foes are generating a mere 57.6 ppg in hitting just 36.8 percent of their total shots, and only 29.2 percent of their three-point tries. Add a +10.1 rebounding advantage and nearly 16 turnovers forced per outing and it's clear why coach Tom Izzo's club is as hot as it is right now. The Spartans knocked down a blistering 61.4 percent of their total shots, including 8-of-14 three-point attempts in their recent rout of UMKC. Wood and Branden Dawson scored 16 points apiece to pace the team, while Adreian Payne tallied 11 points and Green logged a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. The Kangaroos were held to just 37.7 percent field goal efficiency, and they missed 15 of their 21 long-range attempts.
Lehigh is a good team, but not quite on the same level as Michigan State. If this game were being played at Stabler Arena or even a neutral site, perhaps the Mountain Hawks could make a game of it. As it is, the Breslin Center is one of the toughest places to come to and leave with a victory, so expect the Spartans to give the hometown faithful an early Christmas present.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 74, Lehigh 64
12/22 10:34:38 ET