Tonight's game at Purdue may seem like just another Big Ten pairing within the regular season for the Michigan State Spartans, but in actuality, it symbolizes much more than that.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo's career has been marked by a number of milestones and successes in his time as the courtside leader of the Spartans. More than a handful of his teams in the last 15 years have not only driven deep into the NCAA tournament, but many have made an impact in the elusive Final Four, as well.
What makes tonight's game at Purdue so special is that with a win, Michigan State will mark their second-best 24-game start in coach Tom Izzo's career. Sitting at 23-4 on the season, MSU has a chance to improve their record to 20-4 - a feat only topped by the 2000-01 Spartans that began the season at 21-3 and eventually made a Final Four stop, too.
Heading into tonight's game, Michigan State is tied for first place in the Big Ten with Indiana and Michigan, all of whom are 8-2 in conference match ups.
"It's just amazing," Izzo said concerning his team's defensive play as of late, despite nearly each one of his regular starters suffering some type of injury. MSU's latest win came in a knock-down, drag-out fashion against No. 18 Minnesota, taking the game by a score of 61-50.
Still, the recent injuries and sidelined players are going to be difficult obstacles to overcome for Izzo and his players, especially with arch-rival Michigan heading into East Lansing on Tuesday night. Team captain and star talent, Keith Appling, who missed some playing time in the victory over the Golden Gophers to a popped right shoulder, knows that this upcoming stretch of games will test he and his teammates to the fullest.
"We've just got to be tough enough to fight through it," Appling said of the numerous injuries plaguing MSU's starters.
Izzo, on the other hand, is focused on keeping his guys narrowed-in on a game-to-game basis; knowing that if his players start to look to far ahead into the future, they'll lose sight of what's important and right in front of them.
"It keeps them more focused," Izzo said, "but it's also more, when do we get to practice with everybody? When do we get to go full?"|
Tonight's Game: No. 12 Michigan State (19-4, 8-2 Big Ten) at Purdue (12-11, 5-5).
Start Time: 7 p.m., Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
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