East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tigers of Texas Southern continue their murderous start to the season, as they pay a visit to the 25th-ranked Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.
Texas Southern has won only one of its first nine games, the lone triumph coming in a 71-59 decision against Lamar back on Nov. 26. Since then, the Tigers have dropped four straight, the most recent of which being a 94-54 shellacking at the hands of the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Monday.
TSU is playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, as it has already faced Indiana, Tennessee, SMU, Baylor, Florida and Gonzaga, with this bout and one against Kansas State still to come.
At the start of the season, Michigan State was considered to be one of the elite teams not only in the Big Ten Conference, but the nation as well. While they have won eight games, they have faltered in their biggest tests -- losing to Duke (81-71), Kansas (61-56) and Notre Dame (79-78 OT). The team's only win of note came against Marquette in a 79-68 final on Nov. 28. Still, the Spartans bring a three-game win streak into this contest.
This is the middle game of MSU's current seven-game homestand. The Spartans have won both previous meetings with the Tigers in the series, all of which have occurred in East Lansing.
As has been a running theme for Texas Southern this season, the team simply didn't have the talent or depth needed to keep pace with Gonzaga earlier this week. The Tigers shot just 35.6 percent from the floor, which included only three makes on 17 3-point attempts, while the Bulldogs drained 10-of-19 long- range launches en route to a blistering 63.6 percent overall shooting effort. Deverell Biggs and Madarious Gibbs scored 12 points apiece for TSU, while David Blanks tallied 11 points in 27 minutes of action off the bench.
Chris Thomas (15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is Texas Southern's leading scorer and rebounder, and Biggs (11.4 ppg) is the only other double-digit performer this season for a team that generates just 59.2 ppg because of its poor .393 FG percentage, .260 3-point FG percentage and .615 free-throw percentage. The Tigers have been lax at the defensive end as well, yielding 76.7 ppg, as foes are knocking down 50.7 percent of their total shots, which includes a 45.3 percent showing from beyond the arc.
Michigan State may have won its recent game against Eastern Michigan (66-46), but the team lost one of its top performers as Branden Dawson suffered a fractured wrist after taking a hard fall. Dawson, who averages 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, will miss this contest as well Monday's clash with The Citadel. He will be evaluated after the holiday and could return for the Spartans' Big Ten opener against Maryland on Dec. 30.
Back to the win over EMU, Bryn Forbes led the way for MSU with 14 points, Travis Trice had 13, Marvin Clark, Jr. 11 and Matt Costello 10. The Spartans shot just 37.7 percent from the floor, but held the Eagles to a paltry 22.6 percent, which included a woeful 4-of-22 performance from 3-point land.
In addition to Dawson, Michigan State boasts three other double-digit scorers in Trice (14.2 ppg), Denzel Valentine (14.1 ppg) and Forbes (10.8 ppg). The team as a whole is netting 75.4 ppg while permitting only 59.6 ppg, and it also owns significant advantages in FG percentage (.494 to .364), 3-point FG percentage (.444 to .276) and rebounds (+8.4). The Spartans are -1.2 in turnover differential, but that's mainly because they goad the opposition into only 10.5 per tilt. Another area they need to show improvement is at the free- throw line, where they are converting only 62.8 percent of their tries at the moment.