The Michigan State University basketball team host the Texas Southern Tigers Friday night in the Spartan Invitational at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI. Following an unprecedented start to their season, which featured matchups against Tobacco Road rivals UNC and Duke, the Spartans finally play the first game in which they are favored in their third matchup of the 2011 season.
After losing in a surprisingly competitive duel versus No.1 North Carolina in the historic Carrier Classic, Izzo's group were unable to hold off the Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden, granting Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski his record setting 903rd career win. The Spartans made a valiant effort toward the games finale, but were unable to overcome the large deficit created by a poor shooting start to the second half.
MSU is surely ready to dial back the intensity against the Tigers who will represent the SWAC in a game that the Spartans are undoubtedly prepared to tally as W number one on the year.
Sophomore point guard Keith Appling showed signs of a breakout performance late in the game at MSG, tallying 22 points before the contest was through and leading the Sparty comeback which ultimately came up short.
Sophomore giant Adreian Payne pulled down 12 rebounds in the contest against the out-sized Plumlee brothers, but was unable to fully capitalize on three offensive boards, netting just two points. A gut-wrenching performance by Payne's frontcourt companion Derrick Nix will likely solidify more minutes for the young talent moving forward.
Freshman Branden Dawson continued to over-perform for his age, putting in nine points and making a noticeable impact defensively on Duke's premier recruit, Austin Rivers. It's likely that Dawson entered the contest with a bit of a chip on his shoulder due to the unbalance between Rivers hype and his own, and proved that he is certainly not to be overlooked in this, his first collegiate season.
If everything goes as planned this game should provide the first substantial chunk of minutes for some Spartan youngsters who have not yet had much of an opportunity to emerge due to the combative early matchups. Look for both Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd to see plenty of action in mop-up duty once the Spartan front line take care of business early.
This game should provide a sight for sore eyes among MSU followers who have watched an inexperienced group be taken advantage of by the likes of some of the nations premier programs to this point. Look for Izzo's team to provide a lop-sided victory in this one to finally get off the schneid and kick start their young season.