Depleted Spartans and Hoyas Battle at MSG

Two storied programs will matchup at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Michigan State Spartans (19-2, 8-1) and the Georgetown Hoyas (11-9, 3-6) will meet for an inter-conference battle.

Michigan State is coming off an overtime road win at Iowa. The Spartans are still undefeated away from the Breslin Center.

Sophomore forward Matt Costello provided a spark against the Hawkeyes. He scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Georgetown suffered a close loss to the No. 9 Villanova Wildcats and the Hoyas are in the midst of a five game losing streak.

Hoyas senior guard, Markel Starks, led the team with 20 points and five assists. Freshman forward Reggie Cameron also contributed 12 points and three rebounds.

Despite playing without senior forward Adreian Payne for the last six games, Michigan State still ranks No. 32 in the nation in both points scored and rebounds.

Adreian Payne is expected to miss Saturday’s game as well as junior forward Branden Dawson, who is still nursing a broken hand.

The Hoyas will be without junior center Joshua Smith, who was ruled academically ineligible last week. Smith was averaging 11.5 points and was the centerpiece of coach John Thompson III’s Princeton offense.

Georgetown is known for their Princeton offense, which is predicated on back cuts and timing. Michigan State’s defense against the Princeton offense will be key.

Both teams will rely heavily on their backcourt because of the injuries and in Georgetown’s case the academic ineligibility.

The matchup to watch is Georgetown’s backcourt featuring senior Markel Starks and sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera against Michigan State’s backcourt featuring senior Keith Appling and sophomore Gary Harris.

Starks and Smith-Rivera average a combined 33.5 points per game, which is good for 47 percent of Georgetown’s total points per game.

Appling and Harris average a combined 33.7 points per game, which accounts for 42 percent of Michigan State’s total points per game.

Whoever wins the battle of the backcourts will have the decisive advantage on Saturday.

Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Troy Jefferson is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports