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Men’s Basketball Preview: No. 9/10 Michigan State Spartans host Northwestern Wildcats

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Northwestern will be looking to end its current four-game skid and avenge a loss from two weeks ago in Evanston.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the No. 9/10 Michigan State Spartans will be hosting the Northwestern Wildcats at the Breslin Center in East Lansing for the second meeting of the year between the two schools. The Spartans defeated the Wildcats by a final score of 73-67 just 13 days ago on Jan. 2. Michigan State struggled early in that game, trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, before drawing even early in the second half and securing the victory in the final minutes.

Michigan State is coming off a thrilling, last-second 71-69 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Wednesday night at the Breslin Center. Senior forward Joey Hauser scored a game-winning layup as time expired to seal the win for the Spartans. Also, just after halftime of the game with Minnesota, this totally happened:

With the most recent victory, Michigan State is on a nine-game winning streak with a record of 14-2 (5-0 in the Big Ten). The Spartans are currently in a tie with Illinois for first place in Big Ten play, pending the Illini’s game tonight against Michigan in Champaign.

Meanwhile, Northwestern is on a four-game losing streak that started the last time the Wildcats saw the Spartans. The Wildcats dropped another home game versus Penn State by a score of 74-70 on Jan. 5. Northwestern then lost at Ohio State by a score of 95-87 on Jan. 9. Most recently, the Wildcats lost yet another home game to the Maryland Terrapins in double-overtime by a score of 94-87 on Jan. 12. Northwestern’s record now stands at just 8-6 overall, and 1-4 in Big Ten play, which puts them in a three-way tie for 11th place.

The Wildcats are led by senior power forward Pete Nance, who leads the team with 17.1 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. Northwestern boasts two other players who average double-figures in scoring. Junior guard Boo Buie is second on the team in scoring with 14.8 a game and a team-leading 5.8 assists per game. Junior guard Chase Audige is averaging 11.4 points per game. This trio all scored in double-figures (13, 12 and 12, respectively) against the Spartans in the losing effort on Jan. 2.

Northwestern is currently ranked fourth in scoring offense in the Big Ten at 78.6 points per game, which is slightly better than Michigan State’s sixth place value of 75.5 points per game. Defensively, the Wildcats are in 10th place in the Big Ten at 67.4 points per game in comparison to seventh place Michigan State at 65.8 points per game allowed.

Finally, there may be two new faces on Michigan State’s bench on Saturday. It has been reported that both Keon Coleman and Maliq Carr, who just finished their season as members of the MSU football team, have started practicing with head coach Tom Izzo and company on a “trial basis.” Neither player is expected to see any game action at this juncture of the season, but something to keep an eye on.

The game against the Wildcats will tip off at noon and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.