Michigan Bragging Rights

Sophomore forward Raymar Morgan believes Michigan State is getting better each time out. Judging by its latest performance, there may not be any room left for improvement.

The 10th-ranked Spartans look to remain perfect at home this season on Sunday when they face struggling Michigan for the 162nd time in a Big Ten matchup.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Michigan State -16.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information is unavailable at this time (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Since suffering its only conference loss to Iowa on Jan. 12, Michigan State (17-2, 5-1) has reeled off three straight wins, including a 78-62 victory at Northwestern on Thursday.

"We still have room for improvement, but I think we're getting better each day," Morgan said. "Guys are getting more comfortable with each other."

Morgan scored 23 points, Drew Neitzel added 20 and freshman Chris Allen had 17 for the Spartans, who were a season-best 11-of-18 from 3-point range and 29-for-48 from the field in winning for the 14th time in 15 games.

Neitzel led the barrage from the outside, going 6-of-10 from beyond the arc while Allen was 4-of-5. Morgan shot 9-of-11 overall and also grabbed eight rebounds.

"I think it's contagious when one guy, two guys, make their shots," Neitzel said. "The rest of the guys get in their comfort zone. We had good fan support, so we fed off that. It was fun playing out there tonight."

Trailing Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue in the Big Ten, Michigan State has a golden opportunity to make up ground in the next few games. The Spartans' next four opponents - Michigan, Illinois, Penn State and Northwestern - are all at or near the bottom of the conference.

Three of those four games are at home, where Michigan State has won all 11 games this season and 15 straight since a 63-54 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 3. In 13 seasons under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 175-22 at home.

Limited to 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field in the loss to Iowa, Neitzel has been much better in the past three games. He is averaging 17.3 points while shooting 14-for-26 from 3-point range during that span.

Although Michigan (5-14, 1-6) won the most recent meeting against its archrival 59-44 on Feb. 13, Michigan State has done most of the winning in the series lately. The Spartans are 14-3 in their last 17 games versus the Wolverines, winning nine straight at home since a 74-61 loss on Jan. 25, 1997.

This has been a difficult first season at Michigan for coach John Beilein, who took over after five seasons at West Virginia.

The Wolverines have lost three straight and eight of nine with the lone win in that span coming against Northwestern, the worst team in the Big Ten.

Michigan, though, nearly pulled off a stunning upset of No. 11 Wisconsin on Tuesday before losing 64-61.

Beilein said he could see defeat in his players' eyes in a loss to Iowa on Jan. 19 but saw the opposite Tuesday.

"You can sustain more energy than you think you have. You can create energy, just by making that extra play," Beilein said. "We've got to understand that energy gets you stuff like offensive rebounds. There's no technique; there's energy there."

Freshman Manny Harris scored a season-high 26 points Tuesday for the Wolverines, who had their best defensive effort since a 62-51 loss to Harvard on Dec. 1.

Michigan, which ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (70.9), is winless in seven games this season against ranked teams.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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