Spartans and Gophers mix it up in Big Ten action

The sixth-ranked Michigan State Spartans will try to remain in sole possession of the Big Ten Conference's top spot as they head to Williams Arena for a league bout with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

This will be the second meeting this season and 109th encounter in history between Michigan State and the Golden Gophers. The all-time series is tied up 54-54 after the Spartans' 68-52 victory on Jan. 25th of last month in the initial matchup of the season. Michigan State shot 54.2 percent from the field against Minnesota in the first contest, while the Golden Gophers managed to make only 38.3 percent of their field goals.

Tom Izzo's squad picked up its fifth straight victory on Sunday as it downed the Purdue Boilermakers 76-62 on the road to stay a game up on Ohio State and Michigan in the league standings. Michigan State's triumph was helped by a tremendous defensive effort, as Purdue was held to an ice-cold 33.8 percent shooting from the floor. The win improved the Spartans' record to 22-5 overall. Michigan State was very impressive on the glass against Minnesota, as it held a 44-32 edge in the rebounding battle in the contest. The Spartans have outscored their opponents by an average of 14.6 ppg this season.

Draymond Green has been the driving force of the Spartans' success this season. The senior forward averages a double-double with 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest. Green had 20 points, 10 boards, and seven assists as the Spartans trounced Purdue on Sunday. Austin Thornton added 17 points versus the Boilermakers, while Branden Dawson recorded a double-double of his own with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Keith Appling is typically the team's second leading scorer, as he averaging 12.0 points and a team-high 3.8 assists per outing.

The Golden Gophers are on a three-game losing slide after their 64-53 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday. In their loss to the Wildcats, the Golden Gophers held a 41-20 advantage in the rebounding battle, but could not keep up as Northwestern drained 10 three-pointers to gain an edge. Minnesota is outscoring its opponents by an average of 4.2 ppg this season. The loss dropped Tubby Smith's team to 17-10 overall and 5-9 in Big Ten play.

Rodney Williams leads the balanced attack for Minnesota with team highs of 11.0 points and 5.4 boards per game. Julian Welch contributes 10.5 ppg. Williams was held to just nine points by the Wildcats, while Welch poured in a team-high 21 points and handed out five assists. Joe Coleman netted 12 points in the losing effort. Austin Hollins, Ralph Sampson III, and Andre Hollins will need to improve their play to help the Golden Gophers turn it around.