With the euphoria of having just toppled the No. 1 team in the land still lingering, the second-ranked Michigan State Spartans get right back to work as they play host to the Columbia Lions on Friday night.
This game, marking the first-ever meeting between the two teams, is part of regional round action in the Coaches. vs. Cancer Classic.
Columbia is 1-1 on the young season, having topped Maryland-Eastern Shore in its opener, 73-54, before bowing to Manhattan in a 71-70 final three days later. Both games took place on the Lions' home court, but they won't play in front of friendly faces again until hosting American University on Nov. 26.
Michigan State is 2-0 after routing McNeese State in its opener last Friday, 98-56, setting up the showdown in the Chicago on Tuesday night against top- ranked Kentucky. The Spartans prevailed in that contest, 78-74, and they won't likely be challenged again until hosting North Carolina on Dec. 4.
Columbia boasts a pair of double-digit scorers in Grant Mullins (18.0 ppg) and Cory Osetkowski (12.5 ppg), the latter of whom also serves as the team's leading rebounder (7.0 rpg). As a collective unit, the Lions are shooting 48.5 percent from the field, which includes a 35.9 percent showing from 3-point range. They are almost even in terms of rebounding margin, and they are scoring 71.5 ppg while allowing 62.5 ppg. The one area they definitely need to tighten is in defending the long-range shot, as foes are draining nearly half of their attempts through the first couple of games (.481).
Mullins is coming off a 23-point effort in the narrow loss to Manhattan, a game in which the Lions made good on only 4-of-15 3-point tries, while the Jaspers connected on 10-of-12.
Although it's early, Michigan State boasts four double-digit scorers, led by Gary Harris (20.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Keith Appling (16.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.0 apg), Adreian Payne (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Branden Dawson (10.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg) round out the quartet, and the team as a whole is shooting an even 50 percent from the field, while knocking down 39.5 percent of its 3-point attempts. MSU also owns a significant advantage in rebounding margin (+12.5), and its opponents are shooting only 35.2 percent from the floor, while hitting a mere 24.1 percent of their long-range launches.
Appling scored 22 points while handing out eight assists in the big win over Kentucky. Harris tacked on 20 points and Payne added 15 for the Spartans, who made good on 47.6 percent of their total shots, compared to 45.5 percent for the Wildcats. MSU was beaten on the boards, 44-32, but goaded UK into 17 turnovers while committing only seven itself.