The Michigan State Spartans (8-2) hosts Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix (6-5) on Sunday night after a long week of practice, the Spartans will look to get back in action and get win number nine of the season.
The Spartans survived a tough stretch that past few weeks as they played a six-game stretch over two weeks, in which MSU was able to go 5-1, with trips to Las Vegas, Louisville and they survived a tough game down in Gainesville against the Florida Gators last Saturday in their last game. This match-up with Green Bay marks the first of three games the rest of this month, with the other games against Oakland University and Northern Illinois, before they get back to Big Ten Play on January 2nd against the Northwestern Wildcats. Here is a preview and prediction for Michigan State’s game against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
What: Michigan State (8-2) vs. Wisconsin-Green Bay (6-5)
When: Sunday, December 16th, 5:00 p.m.
Where: Breslin Center, Michigan State University
Keys to success for Michigan State
The Spartans have far superior talent in this game, but that doesn’t mean that Michigan State shouldn’t play the way they have been most of the season to this point. MSU shouldn’t have any trouble at home in this game. The Spartans should come out quickly and keep it close, before putting it away in the second half.
Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman should be in for yet another big performance. Ward has had a couple of outstanding games in his last two games, where he has shot 16-18 from the field combined. Xavier Tillman has played outstanding in the last two weeks, as he is averaging around a double-double. Add in guards Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford who are double-figure scores time in and time out, and the Spartans offense has plenty of tools inside and out.
Kyle Ahrens looked like a hero in the waning seconds of the Spartans 63-59 win at Florida, as he scored seven points in the final minutes including a game-winning dunk with 0.1 seconds left on the shot-clock. Ahrens has had a big role with captain Matt McQuaid be out of the line-up since the Texas game, McQuaid returned against the Gators and was able to knock down a three-pointer in 18 minutes of play.
The Spartans will have to slow down a high scoring Phoenix offense. The Phoenix are averaging 87.2 points per game on the season. The Spartans will also have to take care of the basketball, as the Phoenix are averaging nearly 10 steals per contest.
Michigan State has gone with a seven to eight-man rotation lately, and this game could be the time to get the young freshman some more minutes, as the season is getting into the full swing, and the Spartans will need all the depth they can get, as many of Spartans looked gassed at the end of the Florida game. Can Foster Loyer handle the duties of backing up Cassius Winston, he has shown glimpses but is he truly ready to lead the Spartans at both ends of the court on offense and defense? Aaron Henry continues to be the top freshman for the Spartans as he averages around 15 minutes per game and averages 4.6 points per game as well.
Keys to success for Wisconsin-Green Bay
If the Phoenix can find ways to score the basketball, they could keep this one close. As Green Bay is averaging 87.2 points per game this season. The Phoenix are led by Sandy Cohen III who is averaging 14.8 points per game along with five rebounds and five assists. JayQuan McCloud is also averaging double figures in points as well.
Wisconsin-Green Bay has been up and down so far this season, but have played NCAA tournament capable teams, with games against Iowa, Oregon, Creighton and now Michigan State. They have faced each of these teams on the road. When they faced the Iowa Hawkeyes, they came up short, but they were able to put up 82 points against the same Iowa Hawkeyes team that Michigan State beat 90-68 last week.
If the Phoenix can force the Spartans to turn the ball over, and knock down shots could keep this game close, and even have a shot at a major win on the road.
The Spartans should lock down on defense in this game, and we may even see extended minutes for the freshman. Nick Ward, Tillman, Langford, and Winston could see less time in this one, especially if the Spartans get out to a big lead in the first half, I expect Green Bay to keep this one close for a while, but the Spartans just have too many weapons on the court, and will be too much for the Phoenix. Should be a big night for the Spartan Big men, Kenny Goins included.