Sunday evening could go down as an interesting night for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and his boys. The opposition within the Big Ten Conference as it pertains to the 22nd-ranked Spartans (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) has been, well... varied so far this season.
First there was the Big Ten opener on New Year's Eve against then-No. 9 Minnesota in Minneapolis that saw MSU fall flat on their face by a score of 76-63--not such an impressive start. Just five days later, though, the Spartans responded with a resounding win over a sub-par Purdue team for a dominating 84-61 home win at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Topping it all off was the scrappy, last-minute 62-59 victory at Iowa thanks to the efforts of MSU's three McDonald's All-Americans: Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, and Keith Appling.
Tonight, the Spartans will battle an injury-riddled Nebraska group at home in an effort to seal their 29th-straight home win over an unranked opponent. But just because the match up looks easy on paper, doesn't mean that has made it to be quite so in the past for Izzo's bunch.
The Cornhuskers (9-7, 0-3) are still seeking their first victory over a Big Ten opponent this season and they'll be hard-pressed to think that they have an easy shot at it within the tough confines of the Breslin Center in front of the rowdy Izzone.
During Thursday's win over Iowa, Branden Dawson scored a career-high 17 points and capped-off the match up with a game-winning steal and dunk in the final sixty seconds. Riding that momentum is one of the team's primary focuses now that the real "meat" of their tough schedule is finally drawing upon them.
"It's going to be like that every night, pretty much," Dawson's teammate Appling said of the tenacity felt during conference play in Iowa City.
Still, coach Izzo knows that his team his far from perfect; quite far, in fact. With the majority of their most-brutal opponents approaching just over the horizon, Izzo's goal is to shape his players into the most well-rounded group possible--something that isn't lost on the realistic leader.
"There's a lot of things we need to get better at," Izzo said of his current issues with the lineup.
This should come down to a "business as usual"-type of game for the Spartans, in which some key efforts fro top players should easily mark a win for Michigan State. But in the topsy-turvey world that is Big Ten Basketball... anything is possible.
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