Not The Same Team

When Michigan State traveled to State College earlier this month, it was on a five-game winning streak, ranked in the top 10 and tied atop the Big Ten standings.

The Spartans left town after an embarrassing loss, and haven't been the same since.

The No. 19 Spartans (20-5, 8-4) look to avoid a third straight defeat for the first time in more than a year Wednesday when they host the Nittany Lions, who have never won in 15 visits to East Lansing.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Michigan State –15.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Penn State +15.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Michigan State was ranked eighth on Feb. 2 when it faced a Penn State team that had lost six in a row. The Spartans had won 16 straight regular season meetings, but gave up a season high in points and suffered an 85-76 defeat.

It was the highest point total for Penn State (12-12, 4-8) in a conference game since beating Purdue 92-71 on Feb. 17, 2001. Michigan State hadn't allowed that many points in Big Ten play since a 99-96 overtime loss to the Boilermakers on March 1, 1998.

"It was a very, very disappointing loss for us, but one that they earned," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said after that game. "I felt that defensively we were out of it from the beginning."

Preseason Big Ten player of the year Drew Neitzel went 2-of-10 and finished with six points against Penn State, and he's struggled with his shooting ever since. He was 8-of-12 and scored 21 points in a 70-55 win over Northwestern on Feb. 9, but went 1-of-7 in a 60-54 loss at then-No. 19 Purdue three days later.

Neitzel scored 21 points at Indiana on Saturday, but the Spartans struggled to defend once again and lost 80-61 to the then-No. 13 Hoosiers - their third consecutive defeat on the road.

"It is inexcusable, and if I were a Michigan State fan, I would be very disappointed in the coach because I keep saying the same thing and it doesn't change," Izzo said.

Raymar Morgan is the Spartans' leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, but he's failed to reach that total since scoring 23 in a win at Northwestern on Jan. 24. He's averaged just 9.8 points in the following six games as he's often battled foul trouble, and scored only three against the Hoosiers.

Goran Suton averages 8.0 rebounds - among the top three in the Big Ten - but has struggled considerably in his past three games, averaging just 4.3 boards and 4.0 points.

Penn State won its first two conference road games, but has dropped its last four on the road since senior Geary Claxton, one of the Big Ten's best players, was injured.

Claxton was averaging 18.7 points and 8.9 rebounds when he tore his ACL on Jan. 15 against Wisconsin, and the Nittany Lions were averaging 71.7 points in the 15 games Claxton played. Since he went down, Penn State is scoring just 57.8 points per contest.

With Claxton out, Jamelle Cornley is the team's leading scorer at just 11.5 points per game. The emergence of Talor Battle, however, has given the Nittany Lions hope lately.

The freshman point guard is averaging 13.8 points in his last five games, and had 17 in the victory over Michigan State on Feb. 2. He had 14 points - including the winning free throws with seven seconds left - in Penn State's 52-51 win over Illinois on Saturday.

"I had 100% confidence in myself. I knew I was going to make them," Battle said. "I shot them with confidence and they fell."

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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