Big Ten brawl pits Wolverines against Spartans

11:57 AM, Jan 25, 2014   |    comments
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East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Bitter rivals sporting undefeated records in conference play get together on Saturday evening, as Michigan and Michigan State do battle in Big Ten Conference play at the Breslin Center.

Michigan, which comes in at 14-4 overall and 6-0 in conference, is the 21st- ranked team in the country and is riding an eight-game win streak. The Wolverines are 3-2 in true road tilts this season, although they've won their last three, all against Big Ten foes. UM claimed a 75-67 win over Iowa in its most recent outing, marking the second straight ranked foe it has beaten after downing Wisconsin in Madison on Jan. 18, 77-70.

Michigan State has lost only once this season in 19 opportunities, that coming at home versus North Carolina back on Dec. 4. Since then, the Spartans have reeled off 11 consecutive victories, including seven in league play. They took care of visiting Indiana earlier in the week, 71-66, to improve to 9-1 at home. MSU is off to its best one-loss start in school history.

Michigan owns a 95-76 lead in the all-time series with its intrastate rival, although the Spartans have had the upper hand in the last decade or so, winning 20 of the last 27 meetings. This is the first encounter in history with both teams at least 6-0 in conference.

The teams are scheduled to meet in Ann Arbor on Feb. 23 to complete the regular-season series.

Nik Stauskas tied his career high with 26 points, as he led Michigan to its recent win over Iowa. Stausksas, who has scored at least 20 points in each of the last three games, drained four 3-pointers, the Wolverines shooting 46.6 percent from the field overall, despite a rough 8-of-27 showing from beyond the arc. A 13-of-16 effort at the foul line helped, as did the fact that UM turned 14 turnovers by the Hawkeyes into 20 points. Glenn Robinson III came up a rebound shy of logging a double-double as he tallied 14 points, Jordan Morgan had 12 and Zak Irvin 11 for the Wolverines.

Stauskas continues to be one of the more consistent performers in the Big Ten this season, as he is averaging a league-best 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per outing. Robinson III (13.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Caris LeVert (11.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.8 apg) offer support, and the team as a whole is producing 77.2 ppg while permitting just 63.7 ppg. The 3-point shot has been the Wolverines' friend for the most part, as it dropping at a 38.2 percent clip. Michigan also owns favorable margins in both rebounding (+2.6) and turnovers (+2.8).

Michigan State has its share of highly productive players, led by Gary Harris (18.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) who is only fractions of a percentage point behind Stauskas for the Big Ten scoring lead. Adreian Payne (16.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is next on the team, but he is dealing with a nagging ankle injury. Keith Appling (15.6 ppg, 4.6 apg) is also averaging double digits in scoring, as well as serving as the team's primary playmaker, as was Branden Dawson (10.2 ppg, club-best 8.7 rpg), but he is out of commission after suffering a broken hand this week. With only one loss on the season, it's certainly not surprising to see MSU with significant margins in scoring (+16.0), rebounding (+5.6) and turnovers (+2.5).

Harris scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, helping push the Spartans past the Hoosiers earlier this week. Michigan State trailed midway through the final frame, but went on a 21-6 run to work its way beyond the visitors on the way to its 18th victory of the season. Dawson finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in what will likely be his last game for a while, and Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice chipped in with 10 points apiece for the Spartans, who shot a pedestrian 45.1 percent from the field, which included a 33.3 percent effort from distance. They did however, take advantage of 18 miscues by Indiana.

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