New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - A couple of historic programs take a break from their respective conference schedules to meet at New York's famed Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon, as the seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans tangle with the Georgetown Hoyas.
Michigan State is one of the elite teams in the country this season, as the former No. 1 team brings a 19-2 record into this contest. The Spartans are 8-1 in Big Ten Conference play, with their lone loss coming last week to bitter rival Michigan at home. It was the team's second setback in East Lansing this season, and it has yet to lose in 10 trips away from home (6-0 away, 4-0 neutral sites).
Georgetown hasn't had the same amount of success as its counterpart today, and while it has won 11 games, nine losses have fans reserved to the fact that this is a rebuilding year. Presently, the Hoyas have lost five in a row, the most recent of which being a 65-60 home setback against No. 9 Villanova on Monday night. In fact, since opening Big East Conference play with consecutive wins over DePaul and St. John's, the team has lost six of seven. GU is 3-6 outside of Washington, D.C. this season, which includes a 2-2 mark in neutral- site affairs.
This bout marks only the second meeting between these two teams on the hardwood, and it was Michigan State that won the first by taking an 80-68 verdict in the second round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State bounced back from the tough loss to Michigan by slipping past a very good Iowa squad in overtime this past Tuesday, 71-69. The Spartans, who are missing a couple of key frontcourt contributors due to injury, got 16 points from Keith Appling, 12 from Denzel Valentine, 11 points and 12 rebounds from Matt Costello, and 10 points from Travis Trice to earn the hard-fought victory. MSU drained 10 3-pointers in the game, compared to only three for the Hawkeyes. Iowa outscored Michigan State at the foul line (30-11), but shot only 37.5 percent from the floor, registering a mere seven assists on the night.
Michigan State boasts four double-digit scorers on the season, but two of them (Adreian Payne, Brandon Dawson) are nursing injuries that have kept them out of action recently. That leaves Gary Harris (18.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Appling (15.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.9 apg) as the guys coach Tom Izzo will rely upon most. For the season, the Spartans are logging significant margins in scoring (+14.3), rebounding (+4.8) and turnovers (+2.5), and the hope is they will be able to keep their heads above water until they get healthy enough to make a serious run in the postseason.
Markel Starks scored 20 points and dished out five assists, but the rest of his teammates weren't much help as Georgetown fell to visiting Villanova earlier in the week. Reggie Cameron chipped in with a dozen points for the Hoyas, who shot 44.2 percent from the floor, but missed 14 of their 20 3-point attempts on the evening. GU played solid defense, limiting the Wildcats to 40 percent field goal efficiency, but a 22-8 deficit in points at the foul line hurt. Neither team took very good care of the basketball, combining for 34 turnovers. The Hoyas did control the paint, outscoring Villanova there by a 34-22 margin.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is Georgetown's leading scorer at the moment, as he is averaging 17.1 ppg thanks to his exceptional long-range shooting (.427) and effort at the free-throw line (.850). He was of little help against 'Nova however, as he went a dismal 2-of-11 from the floor, including 0-of-6 from beyond the arc, to tally a mere eight points. Starks is the club's second-best scoring option, as he nets 16.4 ppg, due in large part to his 85.9 percent performance at the charity stripe more so than his 40.7 percent effort from the field overall. He is also GU's primary set-up man with 80 assists. As a team, the Hoyas are averaging 71.2 ppg while permitting 67.2 ppg.