After two shaky games, MSU looks to hold home court against in-state rival Michigan

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Needing overtime Wednesday to hold off Rutgers, No. 4 Michigan State looks to get back on track, welcoming in-state rival Michigan today in their lone meeting of the season.

After dropping Maryland by 30 nine days ago, MSU has struggled in their past two outings, getting blown out in Columbus by Ohio State on Sunday and squeezing by Rutgers in overtime on Wednesday night.

Sitting at 16-2 on the year and winners of 15 of their last 16 games, the Spartans look to improve to 5-1 in the conference, with the Wolverines sitting at 14-4 and 3-2 in the conference.

Michigan is getting over a gut-punching one-point loss to Purdue on Tuesday, in which they were on the wrong end of a couple uncertain calls in the final 10 seconds.

The Spartans have all five of their starters scoring in double figures on the season, with Miles Bridges leading the way at 16.5 points per contest. Bridges, who was selected to the John R. Wooden Midseason Top 25 earlier this week, had just 11 points on a 3-of-10 night from the floor against Rutgers.

Before its loss to Purdue, Michigan was winners of their last seven games. The Wolverines have three double-figure scorers in Charles Matthews, with a team-leading 15.6 per game, Moritz Wagner with 13.9 per game and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman at 10.8 per game. John Beilein’s group has the second-best scoring defense in the conference, giving up just 62.1 points per game.

Offensively, Michigan is a group that ranks 20th in the nation with 174 3-pointers made and they lead the Big Ten with 9.7 triples per game. The Wolverines play rather efficient basketball, committing the fewest fouls (244) and giveaways (182) in the entire conference.

On the other end, Michigan State looks to recover from two subpar performances in Big Ten play. Although they were named the Associated Press’s No. 1 team in the nation last week, the Spartans did little to justify the faith that was put in them by voters in their road loss to the Buckeyes. MSU followed their second loss up with a shaky home performance on Wednesday, where it took overtime to knock off a pesky Rutgers squad.

A couple of matchups on-court easily catch the eye. Point guards Cassius Winston and Zavier Simpson were both considered by both schools during the recruiting process, and fans of both teams will remember the battle down low between MSU’s Nick Ward and Michigan’s Wagner last year. The physical battle down low between those two resulted in two technical fouls for Ward and one for Wagner during last season’s matchups, and may be something to keep an eye on this afternoon.

Today’s meeting marks the 180th time these in-state rivals will battle it out on the hardwood. Michigan leads the head-to-head series 89-81, but MSU is 49-37 against the Wolverines in games played in East Lansing. The last time these teams met, Michigan trounced MSU, winning by 29 points in Ann Arbor.

Tipoff for the game is set for noon and can be found on FOX, with Gus Johnson, Jim Jackson and Lisa Byington having the call.

Impact sports editor Kyle Turk also contributed to this preview.

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