Penn St.-Michigan St. Preview

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo consistently has praised the depth

of the Big Ten in recent seasons. It’s no wonder, then, that Izzo

isn’t looking past struggling Penn State despite a showdown at

first-place Ohio State looming later this week.

The 11th-ranked Spartans seek to remain unbeaten at home

Wednesday night when they face the Nittany Lions, winners of two of

the three meetings last season.

Michigan State (18-5, 7-3) took sole possession of second place

with a 64-54 win over then-No. 23 Michigan on Sunday, improving to

14-0 at the Breslin Center.

Draymond Green, who guaranteed a victory prior to the game,

scored 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for his conference-leading

12th double-double. He showed no effects from a sprained knee

suffered in a 42-41 loss at Illinois on Jan. 31.

“It wasn’t hurting,” he said. “I felt great.”

The Spartans will face No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday in a

potential matchup of the Big Ten’s top two teams, though the

Nittany Lions likely won’t go down easily.

Green and fellow senior Austin Thornton have lost to unranked

Penn State teams three times, including 72-68 in East Lansing on

Feb. 1, 2009.

Izzo said it won’t take much to motivate them for this

matchup.

“I just have to tell Draymond and Austin, ‘2009,’” Izzo

said.

It didn’t get much better last season, when Penn State upset No.

18 Michigan State 66-62 at home Jan. 8, then knocked off the

Spartans 61-48 in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. The

Spartans won 75-57 at home Feb. 10, when Green had 15 points and 14

rebounds.

Though the Nittany Lions (10-14, 2-9) come into this matchup in

last place in the conference, Izzo refuses to take them

lightly.

Tim Frazier, who scored 22 points in the last win over the

Spartans, is averaging 18.3 points – second in the Big Ten – and

had 23 in Saturday’s 77-64 loss at Iowa.

“If you polled the Big Ten coaches right now, I’m sure just

about all of them would vote Penn State as one of the hardest

playing teams,” Izzo said. “Frazier is one of the best point guards

in the conference and one of the best point guards around,

period.”

Frazier’s solid play hasn’t been able to prevent Penn State from

losing four straight, including three against ranked teams. The

Nittany Lions have been outrebounded in four of their last five

games, which doesn’t bode well against a Michigan State team that

ranks third in the nation with a plus-10.5 rebound

differential.

Izzo said his team – unranked before the season began –

continues to improve despite the slew of new faces from last

season’s squad.

“This is a unique team because of the number of freshmen and

guys who are playing are inexperienced,” Izzo said. “We’re trying

to get better every day and I do think this team will be better two

weeks from now if everybody keeps coming together. Right now,

that’s almost the biggest goal.”

The Spartans have won 14 of 15 home meetings with the Nittany

Lions since Penn State joined the Big Ten for the 1992-93

season.