Illinois (15-6) @ No. 13 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2)
6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 - East Lansing, Mich. - Breslin Center (14,759)
ESPN (Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Sean Farnham)
Notes (from Michigan State sports info):
- Michigan State is in the early stages of a tough stretch of games. Beginning with the home game vs. Ohio State, Michigan State will play seven games against opponents currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (Jan. 28) in a span of 11 games, and nine in the top 28 in the next 12 contests. The Illinois game is just the fourth in a string of 12 games that will see the Spartans play nine games against teams that currently own a .500 or better conference record.
- Over the last six games, Adreian Payne is averaging 13.0 points, shooting 30-of-43 (.698) from the field, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range. A look at the Big Ten stats shows that Payne is one of the premier big men in the Big Ten, ranking fifth in the conference in rebounding (6.9 rpg), second in field-goal percentage (.610) and eighth in blocks (1.1 bpg). He also ranks fourth on the Spartans in scoring at 9.4 points per contest. The main thing limiting Payne's production is foul trouble, as he's played 20 minutes or more in just 11 games. He's recorded three double-doubles this season, each one of them in 22 minutes or less. However, he is averaging 32.7 minutes over the last three games.
- Michigan State is 322-45 (.877) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 166-34 (.830) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 248-30 (.892) at Breslin, including a 125-21 (.856) conference record. MSU has won 29 of the last 30 games at Breslin.
- Given the fact that Branden Dawson had ACL surgery just last March (two days after suffering the injury in the regular-season finale vs. Ohio State), it's remarkable that he has not missed even a single practice this season. Over the last seven games, he seems to have elevated his play to another level, averaging 12.4 points and 8.1 rebounds, including career highs in both scoring (18 points) and rebounding (13 rebounds) at Wisconsin. On the season, he ranks third on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg), third in rebounding (6.7 rpg), and third in minutes played (27.2 mpg).
- In Big Ten games, Gary Harris leads all conference freshmen in scoring, averaging a team-best 13.3 points per contest. He leads the conference in foul shooting in Big Ten games, making 23-of-25 shots (.920) from the charity stripe. Harris also paces Big Ten freshmen in 3-point percentage in conference games at .500 (19-of-38), ranking third among all players.
Derrick Nix - C, Sr., 6-9, 270 - 9.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Adreian Payne - F, Jr., 6-10, 240 - 9.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Brandon Dawson - F, Soph., 6-6, 230 - 10.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg
Gary Harris - G, Fresh., 6-4, 205 - 12.7 ppg, 1.1 apg
Keith Appling - G, Jr., 6-1, 190 - 13.5 ppg, 4.1 apg
Off the bench:
Denzel Valentine - G, Fr., 6-5, 220 - 4.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Travis Trice - G, Soph., 6-0, 170 - 5.8 ppg, 2.1 apg
Russell Byrd - G, R-Soph., 6-7, 205 - 2.1 ppg, 0.6 apg
Alex Gauna - F, R-Soph., 6-9, 245 - 1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg
Matt Costello - F, Fr., 6-9, 245 - 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg
Series record: Illinois leads 56-55
Series streak: Illinois W1
Record @ East Lansing: Michigan State leads 35-18
Series streak @ East Lansing: Michigan State W5
Last year's meeting: Illinois 42, No. 9 MSU 41 (Jan. 31, 2012 @ Champaign)
Groce vs. Michigan State: First meeting
Michigan State is 16-7 all-time on Jan. 31, including 12-3 @ home. One of it's losses on this date came last year, a 42-41 loss to Illinois.
"They've obviously got great size, and as all his (Coach Tom Izzo) teams have done over the years, they rebound the basketball well. The guys, you can tell they know their role. They have a post presence with (Derrick) Nix and (Adreian) Payne and (Branden) Dawson. The size of the guys even coming off the bench in (Alex) Gauna and (Matt) Gostello, they've got four or five guys there that give them a lot of size. I think that's the thing that certainly stands out, and then just watching Gary Harris play. Certainly really gifted offensively and I know Coach came out this week and talked about what he brings to the table for them defensively for a freshman. Been very impressed with his effort and discipline on that end as well. Then obviously (Keith) Appling is a big part of what they do at both ends of the floor. I think he's really good defensively, a good on-ball defender, makes plays at winning time of the game. I think he's a winner. I've enjoyed watching them on film. (Izzo) has done a great job with his team. Obviously I think they are hitting their stride." -- Illinois coach John Groce
MSU team info: