The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Breslin Center (14,759) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Texas 7-0, Michigan St. 5-0. Away Record: Texas 0-1, Michigan St. 0-1. Neutral Record: Texas 2-1, Michigan St. 3-2. Conference Record: Texas 0-0, Michigan St. 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 3-3.
GAME NOTES: Traditional powers square off in East Lansing tonight, as the 18th-ranked Texas Longhorns come calling on the 12th-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
Texas is 9-2 on the season, and is playing its second straight game against a formidable opponent after knocking off North Carolina in Greensboro last Saturday, 78-76. The Longhorns, who will open Big 12 Conference play at Texas Tech on January 11th, bring a three-game win streak into this clash, but have yet notch a true road win and is an even 2-2 outside of Austin thus far.
Michigan State is 8-3, and puts its impressive 52-game home win streak over non-conference foes on the line tonight. Each loss for the Spartans came against big-time competition, as UConn, Duke and Syracuse all beat coach Tom Izzo's club. MSU, which kicks off Big Ten Conference play on New Year's Eve versus Minnesota, has won its last two games and is fresh off a 90-51 thrashing of Prairie View A&M on Saturday.
The all-time series between these two teams in knotted at 3-3, with the most recent meeting (December 22, 2009) going to the Longhorns at home in a 79-68 final.
Jordan Hamilton logged his third double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Cory Joseph added a career-best 21 points to lead Texas to its narrow victory over North Carolina on Saturday. Gary Johnson and J'Covan Brown also finished in double digits in scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Longhorns, who made good on 44.1 percent of their total shots, but just 35.7 percent of their three-point tries. Hamilton leads the team in scoring (19.4 ppg) while ranking third in rebounding (7.2 rpg), and he is shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. Joseph has turned it on in the last half dozen games, averaging a team-high 16.2 ppg and shooting 53.0 percent from the floor and 51.5 percent from downtown over that span. Joseph hit the game-winning shot against the Tar Heels. As a team, Texas is scoring 77.7 ppg behind 44.6 percent field goal accuracy this season, while defensively limiting the opposition to 62.5 ppg on typical shooting efforts of only 36.5 percent overall, and 28.7 percent from three-point land. Add a +7.3 rebounding margin and it's easy to see why the 'Horns have enjoyed some early success.
Michigan State took the floor for Saturday's game with Prairie View A&M without coach Tom Izzo, who was serving a one-game suspension for a minor NCAA rules infraction, but it didn't matter as the Spartans rallied around each other and handed the Panthers a good old-fashioned beating in what was a 91-51 final. Durrell Summers scored a season-high 25 points to pace MSU, which also got solid contributions from Draymond Green (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Delvon Roe (10 points, five rebounds, two blocks) and Kalin Lucas (10 points, eight assists). The Spartans shot an even 50 percent from the field while holding Prairie View to 32.7 percent. The Panthers were guilty of 22 giveaways and they were outscored 42-20 in the paint, 25-6 off turnovers and 35-10 in bench points. It was the third time in the last four games, and the fifth time this season that Summers led the Spartans in scoring, and he currently averages a club-best 15.5 ppg. Lucas, the preseason pick for Big Ten Player of the Year, is netting 14.7 ppg, while Green checks in with 12.5 ppg. Green heads the team's rebounding effort with 9.0 caroms per contest. Michigan State averages 77.6 ppg on 47.4 percent field goal accuracy, which includes a 41.6 percent showing from three-point range. Defensively, the team is yielding 66.5 ppg on 39.5 percent overall shooting.
This should be a highly-entertaining game between two teams poised to make serious noise in their respective conferences, and be two of the select few chosen to continue their season once league tournament play concludes in March. The Spartans need a quality win in the worst way, and with the hometown faithful pulling for them, expect that to happen tonight.