Spartans face off against Fighting Illini

The No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (16-1, 4-0) are on the road once again headed to Champaign, Ill. to take on the Fighting Illini (13-5, 2-3) at the State Farm Center this Saturday.

Michigan State goes into the game winning their past nine games and being undefeated on the road.

The Spartans average 80.5 points per game.  A big part of the high average is carried on the back of two players: Keith Appling and Gary Harris. In the past six games, both Appling and Harris have both put up double-digit points. Harris is ranked fourth in the Big Ten for overall points this season and fifth in steals, while Appling is ranked third overall in total assists per game.

MSU is ranked third in the nation for assists per game.

In the Spartans’ previous game against Northwestern, sophomore Gary Harris scored 14 points and had four steals, leading the team to their ninth straight victory as they beat the Wildcats, 54-40.

Senior Adreian Payne once against sat out with issues related to a foot injury and is still listed as questionable for tomorrow night’s game against Illinois.

The Fighting Illini enter this game coming off of three straight losses to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue. In their last game against Purdue, they fell short, 66-58.

The Illini are carried by Rayvonte Rice who is currently second in the Big Ten’s leading scorer’s category behind Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, averaging 17.7 points per game.

Rice scored 11 points and pulled down seven boards in his last game against Purdue. The 6-foot-4 junior comes into the game against MSU nursing a strained adductor muscle in his hip.

Illinois, as a team, shot 39 percent from field goal range, 61 percent from the free-throw line and gave up 12 turnovers.

Tracy Abrams is another player to watch as he has scored double figures in seven of the last eight games for the Fighting Illini.

The Spartans are a perfect 8-0 on the road, but will face an Illinois team who is 9-1 on their home court. It is important that the Spartans can close out Rayvonte Rice and force the ball inside to center Nnanna Egwu who was held scoreless in their previous game against Purdue.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Hayleigh Geurink is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports